Baseball. It’s the All-American sport. It’s appeal continues through generations and is the current sub-story line in Disney’s soon to be released, Million Dollar Arm.
As part of the launch for the new movie, Disney held a Million Dollar Arm Pitching Contest (official rules here). Anyone 18 and older was able to compete for the grand prize of ONE MILLION Dollars. In the end, the three hardest-throwing contestants from each location would win tickets to Million Dollar Arm’s May 6th Hollywood Premiere…right after all nine took to the mound in hopes of throwing a smokin’ 100mph strike.
ESPN whose “Baseball Tonight” covered the event live from the green carpet, with hosts Karl Ravech, Barry Larkin and analyst Tim Kurkjian, have a great article on Does Velocity Matter? that has some great graphs and text about the odds of throwing 100-mph. Without ruining the fun of researching it on your own, I can tell you that there is still some excitement even when the pros hit that milestone. Prior to the contest, USA TODAY reported that Royals rookie Yordano Ventura threw a 102.9mph ball–that is now recorded as the fastest pitch thrown by a starter in a regular-season play.
So? Could a mere mortal throw 100-mph?
Many tried and in the end it came down to:
- James Brunswick, New York, N.Y.
- Josh Dahl, Glendale, Ariz.
- Collin Franklin, Kissimmee, Fla.
- Elias Imbert, New York, N.Y.
- Blaine Jones, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
- Brandon Otto, Kissimmee, Fla.
- Harrison Russell Pyatt
- Yorba Linda, Calif.
- Steve Sirko, Danbury, Conn.
- Zackery Neal Watson, Gotha, Fla.
Courtesy of Delta Airlines, the fastest contestants from each location was flown in for the finals.
Josh Dahl (@jdahla100) threw a 97 at the qualifier. My bet was on him!
Dahl has a unique story of how he got to the finals. One of his employees was in North Dakota and sent him a picture of the Million Dollar Arm Pitching Contest promotion. This was on April 25, the first day the contest opened in Anaheim, CA. Josh lives in Arizona.
When he received the photo text, Dahl went to his manager, Mike and said, “I can do this.”
Mike encouraged him saying “Yes. You can.”
Those six words lead to Mike and Josh packing his truck and leaving for California at 10pm that night. They arrived in Anaheim at 4:30 in the morning, where Josh slept in the bed of his truck for two hours. He woke up, feasted on a breakfast at Denny’s and then checked out the competition, assessing the cage and how the contest was set up. He stretched and warmed up and then pitched an amazing 97-mph on his first pitch.
We were now at the finals. Back to that thought: Could a mere mortal win ONE MILLION dollars?
Jon Hamm, who plays JB Bernstein, in Million Dollar Arm stood on the mound and announced, “Let’s Play Ball!”
It was time for the competitors to throw ball!
On that night of the finals, I stood behind Dahl’s cheer section. This was a group of supporters, hollering out a play on Josh’s last name, “Dahla”. I introduced myself and Josh’s little sister, Brittany, VERY enthusiastically announced SHE was Josh’s brother.
How could I not take a selfie with such a supportive sibling!
Josh Dahl, the son of Fred and Janita, would pitch last.
As the competition pitched baseballs in the mid to high 80s and a couple in the low 90s, Janita Dahl, turned to me and said, “I gave birth to him!”
After meeting Mrs. Dahl, I had the opportunity to ask Josh what his mother’s best advice to him has been through the years.
“Never give up on your dreams. Don’t let the doubters make you give up.” Josh went on to say, “My mom has always had my back. She has always been there to listen and give me advice.”
Dahl has played baseball for about 18 years. He started when he was three years old with tee-ball and his coach, his dad, stayed with him all the way to high school. Dahl says of his dad, “He is my biggest influence.”
Josh has been clocked with a running pitching 100-mph four times.
Then it was time for Josh Dahl, to step on the mound.
Josh says of this moment, “I felt the opportunity was great. I went in “iced”–I wasn’t really warmed up. I had played catch a little, did some jumping jacks and put myself closer mentally. Then I stepped on the mound and I blacked out everything else.”
The It Mom, Daisy, captured this great video of Josh Dahl’s pitching in the Million Dollar Arm Contest.
In that moment, Dahl recalls hearing them say, “I won the competition.” He was mixed with emotion and looking back feels, “I wish I could have come closer. I wanted to change my life and the life of my family and friends.”
He walked over to JB Bernstein, who started the reality search Million Dollar Arm in India, and discovered Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. Dahl and Bernstein shook hands and then Bernstein welcomed Dahl into the Seven Figures Management Company with a contract to help Dahl reach his full potential.
Of the experience, Dahl says, “It hasn’t changed who I am as a person. I have a lot of really great talent. Baseball is one, maybe my first, passion, other than God. I have many dreams, maybe acting, music and someday, I want to fight in the UFC. There are so many things I want to conquer. I have had a lot of people give up on me, but I haven’t given up on those people who gave up on me.”
While the details of the contract are still waiting to be released, Josh is dreaming big. “I’d like to pitch and hit for a National League team. Maybe the Arizona Diamonds, or even a California team, Angels, Dodgers or Oakland.”
Following the contest the finalists attended Million Dollar Red Carpet Event, where Dahl admitted he may have been a little, “Star struck”, as well as the Million Dollar Arm premiere screening as VIP guests at the El Capitan Theater. Each finalist also received a $500 gift package from Rawlings, a $250 gift certificate from Under Armour, two tickets each to the ESPY Awards.
In addition to presenting the contest, SUBWAY® Restaurants also sponsored the world premiere. Other participants included Krispy Kreme, Pinks Hot Dogs, Dole Squish’Ems, Coca-Cola, KIND bars and Wonderful Pistachios.
While Josh Dahl may have fallen short on the 100-mph pitch this round, one thing is for certain, we’re sure to see much more of him in seasons to come.
Million Dollar Arm is in select theaters this weekend and in theaters everywhere, May 16.