An Indian American baseball player is making a mark in the college circuit and attracting the attention of professional scouts. Rohan Handa, a rising senior at Yale, currently playing for the Mystic Schooners in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, has had a promising career so far. In just two years at Yale, the 21-year-old North Carolina native has progressed from being an average baseball player to a star athlete pursued by scouts.
In his first New England Collegiate Baseball League start on June 3, Handa increased velocity from about 82 miles per hour two years ago to hit 97.7, according to The Day. He is now touching 97.8 mph “on the radar gun with an even better slider, looking more and more like an MLB draft prospect with scouts across all 30 professional teams,” the report said. He has pitched a total of 31.2 innings in his college career.
“Honestly it’s insane,” Handa told The Day of his rapid rise. “This has happened so quickly that I haven’t come to the full realization that this is actually happening. It’s been amazing.”
And the youngster has achieved this feat despite a short 2020 season and a canceled 2021 season. Last year, Handa made four appearances with a 1.80 ERA, 1-1 record, and one strikeout, as per the Take baseball website. That year, as a sophomore at Yale, the left-handed pitcher was throwing in the low-to-mid 80s with a 1.80 ERA (earned run average) in four appearances before COVID-19 ended the season early.
That’s when Handa returned home to Charlotte, North Carolina. He used the time to analyze his baseball career. “I needed to take a good look at myself and realize there was a lot of stuff I needed to work on,” Handa told The Hartford Courant. He enlisted the help of Tread Athletics, a Charlotte-based pitching performance training service, to help him reach that next level.
“Honestly, I’d say COVID has been the biggest blessing for me,” Handa told The Hartford Courant. “If COVID didn’t really happen, I maybe would have been the same because I didn’t have a set routine at the time and I was able to figure myself out as a pitcher.”
Garrison Roy, who worked with Handa at Tread, told The Hartford Courant that Handa’s rebuild began with “mechanical tweaks starting with Handa’s arm action,” and other areas. Along with Houston-based Dynamics Force Training, Tread helped Handa fine tune his body, from 220 pounds to 215.
Tread also posted a video online of Handa pitching to live batters, hitting 93-95 on the radar gun. Scouts began showing interest in him. Handa’s advisers arranged for him to throw a bullpen session at the ACC Tournament championship game in Charlotte in front of a host of evaluators in May.
Handa told The Hartford Courant that his parents instilled a hard-working mindset into him and his younger brother Kunal. They also helped him work through the pandemic and focus on his pitching. Handa’s father, Vikas, is an IT entrepreneur, and his mother Mona holds a master’s degree in social work and psychology from Delhi University.
Handa speaks three languages — English, Chinese, and Hindi, and also plays the viola. He founded the U.S. chapter of an international charity organization “Kitaab,” which promotes childhood literacy and provides books to underprivileged kids around the world. At Yale, Handa is pursuing a degree in both political science, statistics, and data science.
“I suppose [it’s about] having a purpose,” Handa told The Hartford Courant. “And having that sort of discipline, which is what I got from my parents. Their influence means the world to me. It changed me completely.”
Before joining Yale, Handa was a four-year letterman in baseball at Cannon School in Concord, North Carolin He won the MVP Award in 2018 and Cy Young Award in 2017 and 2016. At Concord, he made it to the second team Independent Schools all-conference in sophomore, junior and senior years.
He was selected for USA Baseball Under 14 National Talent Development Program in 2014 and the USA Baseball Under 15 National Team in 2015, becoming the only player from North Carolina on the national team. He also represented the U.S. in Pan American games held in Mexico where he won a gold medal. Recipient of the High School Rising Player of the Year Award in 2016, he was nominated for High School Pitcher of the Year and Academic Player of the Year awards in 2018. He was a starter for South Charlotte Panthers, a prestigious North Carolina travel baseball team.
Talking about being one of the few Indian American baseball players, he told The Day that he’s “just trying to expand the game.” He also mentioned the need to create “something in India, where people start to enjoy, people start to learn.” Adding that “it’s going to take a long time, a lot of discipline and a lot of planning. But I do think we can get if we get the right group of people to figure this thing out, it would be probably the greatest thing that’s ever been achieved in my life.” Till then, Handa wants to improve himself as much as possible. “If the draft happens, it will definitely be a good opportunity.”