Manoo Satyavrat came in third place for rookie of the year in the 3L. He is the first Indian-born player to play in any league of the USBA. The following is the first hand account of GM Kyle Norton’s pursuit of the “Bahmani Bomber” and his subsequent development.
When I stepped off the plane in New Delhi the first thing I noticed was the heat. The sun was beaming down on me. I paused for a moment to put on my sunglasses. As I approached the car, my driver smiled and said, “Welcome to India, Mr. Norton.”
I soon found myself out of my depth. This was my first ever visit to India. I had been in Asia before to see prospects, but mostly I found myself in eastern Asia. Korea, Japan, Taiwan and even China are places I have become very familiar with in my time working in baseball. But this was something different all together. The city was crowded and dense just like the cities of East Asia, but the sights, smells, and sounds were very different. The first time I saw an elephant in the street I was so surprised I jumped out of my seat. I wasn’t here to take in culture however. I was here to see a 16-year-old two-sport phenom swing a bat.
I drove out to Prelad pur Bangar, a province north of Delhi. I was hesitant at first, we get leads that turn out to be nothing all the time, but my head scout told me I needed to be out here in person. How we found Manoo is a funny story. One of my area guys got a random tip off about some 15 year old cricket star who might play some baseball on the side. I was so skeptical, and I thought I was wasting money sending scout after scout out there, but guys kept gushing about this kid. My head scout came back and told me, do whatever it takes. I knew what he meant, but I wasn’t going to drop 10+ million on someone I had never seen from a country that doesn’t produce major league talent. So that’s how I found myself sweating my ass off in a field in India.
There were some other scouts there; word gets around in this business. First we watched him run through some standard drills, and he was crazy quick. Athletic build and very fast, we have worked with prospects like that before. Sometimes you can teach a guy to play baseball, sometimes you can’t. It’s a mixed bag. Then I saw him hit. That’s when it clicked. His fundamentals weren’t bad. He could actually swing a bat, and when he connected he was going long every time.
Over the next week he did multiple work outs for us and impressed us every time. He was so versatile. Showed promise in every facet of the game. He impressed in interviews too. Humble and sharp as a tack. I was sold. Our biggest challenge would be convincing him to move halfway around the world and play a sport he had done as a hobby previously. He had interest from other baseball clubs for sure, but he was also getting offers from every cricket team in the Indian premier league.
Our offer had to beat all of these contenders. So yes there was a lot of money involved. But I think what really sold him on us was our level of commitment. We promised to make him a priority in our organization. We let him stay in India for 3 more years, and sent him a dedicated tutor to manage his development. He was a hard worker and always wanted to learn more. We moved him to Delaware at age 19 and that was a huge shock. I took him out to dinner one night and accidentally took him to a steak house. Totally slipped my mind that he didn’t eat beef. The biggest change was the cold though. He hated it. When you’re from India, Delaware in the winter seems like Antarctica. He still hates the snow, but at least now he’s more used to it. Luckily we only play in the summer.
He adjusted to the minors way faster than he adjusted to America. Crushed single and double A. My manager in Atlantic City said he should be playing in the majors. He was bored destroying opponents weekly. So we made the decision to let him come to spring training just to see what he could do. Again he was incredible. We couldn’t waste a year with him in Scranton. We had to give him a roster spot. What we didn’t expect was that he would have the highest WAR of any batter on the team.
You find talent in the weirdest places. Sometimes it’s on the best college team in America and sometimes it’s in a village in one of the hottest places I’ve ever been. Manoo is set up for an incredible career and I couldn’t be happier my scout dragged me out there 6 years ago. His English is progressing slower than his bat, but if he puts the same amount of devotion into that as he did to learning to hit and field, I’m sure he’ll be getting an award for public speaking or writing a book in the next few years.