Pitchers in baseball control the destiny of the game. Meaning most of the time, the outcome of the match is determined by how well they pitch. However, relieving pitcher Karan Patel is hoping to not only leave a mark on the mound for the Voyagers, but on the sport of baseball.
Patel joined the Voyagers after hearing his name called in the seventh round of the MLB Draft - a day he says he’ll never forget.
“I was going to work out, got the call and kinda sprinted back home and everyone was excited,” Patel said. “And then all family members from all over the country - even in India. They were sleeping and they called. They were like, ‘wow congrats, like you’re the first one.’”
You heard the right. Karan Patel, pitcher for the Great Falls Voyagers, was the first Indian American to be drafted to the MLB.
“It really didn’t click until more and more people started calling, and there were papers coming out, and then it finally hit, like oh yeah, I made history,” he said.
Now that he has a bigger platform, he hopes other Indian American players are encouraged to chase their dreams.
“I think it opens a lot of doors. I mean, typically most Indian parents are saying, ‘Hey, we want you to go to school, get your degree, become a doctor, engineer, or something higher up there,” Patel said. “But I think once this barrier is broken, door’s been opened, hopefully more people will go into American sports and try to branch out and try to pave the way for themselves.”
“Any type of integration is helpful. It’s very good, it’s good for him obviously, but it’s good for baseball, and it’s good for everybody in general,” added Voyagers Pitching Coach John Ely. “It is cool to be a part of that, and I think he’s probably proud of that as well, which he should be.”
But, Patel’s Indian heritage is also helping him better prepare on the mound. Growing up, he split time between baseball and the most popular sport in India - cricket. At just 15 years old, he made the Under-19 National Cricket team, following the footsteps of his father, who also played for the National Team.
“Cricket definitely helped in my pitching. Just the way I release the ball and I have a different spin. I get a rise on my fastballs just cause in cricket, you throw the ball round arm cause you’re not allowed to bend your elbow, and it’s a lot of wrist. So that kinda helps my pitching.”
“He’s just got ice water in his veins,” said Ely. “I guess he blew a couple saves in college - all the sudden, we put him in the end of a game, and he just came in and poured strikes with a couple different pitches in the zone, and he’s just been outstanding. Every time he’s gone in, he’s just taken the ball and just pitched, and it’s been great to see.”
“Getting the opportunity to play professional baseball, not many can say that, and being the first Indian definitely caps off the story.”