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MILLION DOLLAR ARM

Baseball Training
Sharma and Mittal began their baseball training in India and continued it throughout the movie. Like their real-life counterparts, Rinku and Dinesh, neither had played the game before and they had to learn enough to at least play "movie baseball."

Enter Mark Ellis, the "Million Dollar Arm" baseball coordinator, assistant baseball coordinators Aimee McDaniel and Jessi Moore, and pitching coach Mike Ribaudo, along with a cadre of trainers in India and in Georgia. The baseball experts put Sharma and Mittal on an accelerated training program, both on and off the field. When the shooting company wrapped each day, Sharma and Mittal hit the gym for a couple hours and drank special protein drinks throughout to keep their energy and weight up.

"Yeah, those trainers destroyed us," Suraj Sharma says. "Our whole bodies were aching. But eventually we started bulking up and got stronger."

As Sharma points out, the training was not merely cosmetic and he learned to channel the experience into his character. "The main thing was I had never played baseball and I never liked cricket, so my bowling action, anything to do with throwing, was not very good. I had my fears about this whole actual baseball pitching business but I really wanted to try. And Rinku had never played or pitched before either, so he was trying to learn and improve as fast as he could. So as far as performance is concerned, it helped me," Sharma says.

Sharma's task was slightly harder in that his character Rinku is a lefty - and Sharma is not. Director Gillespie tried to help him out as much as possible - often, Sharma pitched right-handed and the uniforms and background signs were printed backwards - Gillespie would just "flip" the film in post-production. However, he couldn't achieve every shot that way and Sharma had to learn to throw with his left hand.

"I trained mostly with my right arm but a lot of times I had to throw left -handed. There are not a lot of things a righty can do with his left hand - I did the best I could but I was really bad at the beginning and even at the end. Finally in Georgia, I actually got two strikes pitching with my left hand and I was so happy," Sharma says.

Even Madhur Mittal, who is very athletic, found his new sport daunting but addictive. Near the end of the show, he additionally practiced batting and catching just because it was fun. He was so drawn to the role of Dinesh he didn't really consider the training he had in store, not to mention throwing for hours in front of the camera.

"At first I was so much into the character, I didn't realize how physically demanding it would be," Mittal says. "It was the most physically tough film I've ever made in my life and I've been doing this for 15 years now. I'd even done a Bollywood sports fi lm about cricket. This was really hard at first to buff up and then the baseball training. During the actual shooting I threw my arm out a couple times, I can tell you how hard it is. It's not anything I was used to. In cricket, you cannot use your elbow, if you straighten it more than 30 degrees, that's an illegal delivery whereas in pitching it's all about using your whole wing. Cricket is all about body movement; you run in and then you use all that momentum to go. But in baseball, you're standing in one place and you have to get all that power and velocity in just that one motion, even if you do use your legs to some extent. To repetitively throw 100 pitches like they do, that takes a lot out of you. Pitching is not easy, man, but I love doing it, I'm hooked on it now."

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