Four varsity baseball players used their athletic prowess to deliver a hard-hitting performance on a popular Indian reality TV show in February. Strapping on their mitts and manning the bases, the athletes prepared to teach contestants from The Roadies the basics of playing baseball.
The Roadies is a competitive, cash-prize television program airing on MTV (Music Television) India currently in its ninth season. The show’s ten contestants from India embark on a road trip within a given country — this year the United States — stopping along the way to partake in various challenges with the elimination of one contestant at the end of every episode. The 5 million viewers of MTV Roadies 9: Everything or Nothing — which premiered on Jan. 7 — follow the show’s participants as they travel the West Coast riding Hero Karizma motor bikes. As Hero MotoCorp is one The Roadies’ sponsors, the Karizma bikes have been a staple on the show since the beginning, along with being one of the snazzy prizes the participants compete to win.
The competitors, whose recent assignments have included dirt biking in Death Valley and break dancing in Nevada, can now add knowing how to play baseball to their growing list of newly-acquired skills.
Seniors first baseman Max Lewin, second baseman Nicholas Magyari, third baseman Max Barnes and pitcher Nicholas Tam accompanied by physical education teacher and varsity baseball coach John Donohue, arrived at Balboa Park’s Sunberg baseball diamond, on the chilly morning of Saturday Feb. 18 to teach pitching, hitting and fielding skills to their international visitors.
Though none of the ten Roadies contenders had played much of America’s favorite pastime before, many were familiar with cricket, a similar sport that is popular in India and other former British colonies. Meanwhile, the four teammates were pleased that they need not encounter any complications from a language barrier. “Surprisingly the Indians did speak English, which made it easier for the four of us,” Tam said. “In addition we gave them visual support by demonstrating little basic techniques such as utilizing your legs and butt to help you maximize the velocity on your pitch.”
After an intense practice session, The Roadies’ newly discovered athletic abilities were put to the test as they found themselves pitching and batting against some of Lowell’s star baseball players.
The Roadies cast broke up into three groups and were judged on their abilities to hit off of Tams’ pitches, pitch to Barnes at bat and act as catcher. According to Donohue, the Roadies were able to win money each time they successfully hit a ball — including fouls — off of Tam’s pitches, although he was unsure of the amount of the cash prize. “It was all the components of baseball, but we didn’t play an actual game,” Tam said.
The competitors’ pitching speeds were compared to the speed of Tam’s — which according to Donohue usually averages about 65 to 75 miles per hour. And though the reality show contenders put up a good fight against the Lowell players, none of them found victory. “If the Indian players pitched faster than that, then their team was safe,” Lewin said. “One of the contestants did pretty well as pitcher, but other than that they were not very good at baseball. I don’t think any of them actually won any money.”
But the contestants were not the only ones out of their element. “At first we were so starstruck,” Barnes said.
The film crew and production equipment added an out-of-the-ordinary twist to the experience. “I’ve never been around so many cameras before, so it was interesting and even crazier knowing that these guys were from halfway across the world,” Tam said. “The fact that they came to us and gave us an opportunity to work and film with them was quite extraordinary.”
Though most Americans will not be able to watch The Roadies on the big screen‚ — the show is exclusive to MTV India’s network and website — the four seniors eagerly await a recording of their TV appearance, which the show’s producers plan to mail them. “They’re going to send us a DVD of the episode we were in when it airs in about two months, so it’s pretty exciting,” Lewin said.
The Roadies, which follows a format similar to American television shows like The Amazing Race, has been a hit among Indian youth since it first aired in 2003. The program pits competitors against each other as they perform mentally and physically daunting tasks, categorized into “money tasks,” “immunity tasks,” “Karizma tasks” and “advantage tasks,” according to MTV India’s website. During money tasks — such as playing baseball — the reality stars can earn anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 in U.S. dollars. These prize sums accumulate, and only the last Roadie standing can keep the cash he or she won throughout the season. Winning “immunity tasks” prevent contestants from being voted out by other contenders at the end of that episode. A “Karizma task” allows the reality show cast to win the $1,500 to $3,000 Hero Karizma bikes while the “advantage tasks” give cast members an unexpected edge, such as gaining multiple votes during eliminations.
Although Donohue and the varsity baseball team did not walk away with thousands of dollars in cash prizes, they were awarded $750 collectively from the producers of The Roadies. The money will go to the San Francisco Youth Sports Travel Fund, which financially supports Lowell’s baseball team and other school teams throughout the city. “Hopefully the money will go back to us and help pay for a varsity trip,” Donohue said. “We’re looking to go to Arizona for a three-game tournament in late March.”
Along with the money, Lewin, Magyari, Tam, Barnes and Donohue earned a complimentary meal and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “We were there for almost a good six hours,” Barnes said. “But they bought us free Indian food which made it all worth it.”