Actor Jon Hamm who plays JB Bernstein in the movie, Million Dollar Arm. Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Million Dollar Arm Movie

Million Dollar Arm: JB Bernstein, Rinku Singh and John Hamm

Written by Kelli Gillespie

Sports agent J.B. Bernstein created a reality television contest in India, titled Million Dollar Arm. It was an unconventional recruitment strategy to get talented cricket players to play professional baseball in America. The winner received the prize money as well as formal training in the United States with the possibility of being selected for a Major League Baseball contract. One of the 2008 winners was Rinku Singh, who ended up being the first Indian man ever signed to a pro sports contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now a Disney movie with the same name, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm stars as JB Bernstein. Risen sat down with Ham, Bernstein and Singh to talk about life-changing opportunities, risks and big dreams.

Interviewed for Risen Magazine at the Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills, California

Risen Magazine: When you look at your career, when have you had a life-changing opportunity?
Jon Hamm: The decision to move from St. Louis, Missouri – which is where I’m from – to Los Angeles, is a pretty significant shift in my life. Los Angeles is a big city and St. Louis isn’t. I had some family out here, and a couple friends, but it wasn’t like I came out here with a job. I figured, I’m not getting any younger and it’s time to try it, if I want to try it. I was teaching school at the time and I was offered another contract for the year and I could’ve easily seen myself teaching for the rest of my life. I really love it. Education is a huge part of my life and educating was a wonderful experience for me. So I could’ve seen myself doing that for a career, but I had to give it [acting] a try at least.

(l to r) Baseball players Rinku Singh, Dinesh Patel, and agent JB Bernstein – the real men behind Million Dollar Arm. Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

(l to r) Baseball players Rinku Singh, Dinesh Patel, and agent JB Bernstein – the real men behind Million Dollar Arm. Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Risen Magazine: Who was the person, or people, that first believed in you and took a risk, or helped shape your success?
Jon Hamm: I lost my parents at a very young age and that is tricky to get over and get through but I had a lot of surrogate parents. Friends of mine kind of adopted me into their family and took over that parental role in a pretty literal way. I’ve had a lot of people in my life that were very helpful and I also have Jenn [actress Jennifer Westfeldt] who has been in my life for 16 years who is incredibly supportive, and has been even when I was a waiter and struggling to get a job. Trying to get through the day going to 900 auditions for the stupidest stuff and didn’t get jobs. And she did [get jobs]. She was working on television shows, movies, this, that and the other and I was just plugging away. So I’ve had a lot of people that have been supportive and I try to be that to other people as well and take a position in people’s lives where you want to be helpful. Life is hard enough; it’s nice when you have somebody that does support you.

Risen Magazine: Rinku, talk to me a little bit about your journey… coming from India, participating in the contest, major league baseball, meeting the President, to now a movie made about your life… when you think about it, is it overwhelming? Can you believe this is your life?
Rinku Singh: The journey from India to here, and choosing to play baseball were not easy things to do. It was the hardest thing. I would even say it was the biggest decision I ever made in my life and the toughest decision. And [at first], it felt like we were not going to succeed, especially failing in our first try-out. [JB] gave us a motivational speech about life and keeping faith and after that, at the second try-out, we got signed [to a major league contract] and that really changed our motivational thought from, “Oh we are going to have to pack bags and go back [to India] and start our journey again – which would be such a big insult to go back home, so we made our dream a reality.

Risen Magazine: What would you say to people that want to pursue their dream but they think it’s not possible or maybe don’t know how?
Rinku Singh: Everybody likes to have a dream, but how bad do you want your dream? How bad do you want to succeed? As long as you stay focused, believe in yourself, and your work ethic, there is nothing hard. We are all human; we can do it. Thank you to the Pittsburg Pirates for giving me a job. If Rinku [me], Dinesh, and JB – these are real people – if we can do it, then you guys can do anything as long as you are willing, and have a dream. You want to succeed like how you need oxygen to breathe. When you want it that bad then you’ll be working, working, working and that is all you will see.

Risen Magazine: JB, from Upper Deck, to deals you had with players from Barry Bonds to Emmit Smith, and including Million Dollar Arm… it seems you are excellent at thinking, and executing, outside-of-the-box. How do you come up with your ideas and then get people to adopt them?
JB Bernstein: I’m a firm believer that everybody can come up with ideas and I have a system that I use to come up with ideas – I don’t think you have to be gifted in any way. And the execution is just about having a good plan and hard work. I think that is one of the things that is unique [with me]; usually someone is either creative or they are executional where I think I have been very blessed to be able to do both.

Interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Summer 2014

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