(USA TODAY) This may be Hollywood's biggest pitch yet.
For a feel-good sports film called Million Dollar Arm, Disney hatched a publicity event that could land the average Joe a cool $1 million bucks.
It just depends how hard you can hurl.
The Million Dollar Arm Pitching Contest launches April 25 at Disneyland and Disney World and on April 26 in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood for amateur baseball enthusiasts who think they can pitch like a MLB pro.
The stunt is in the spirit of the sports flick (in theaters May 16), which chronicles hard-on-his-luck sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) and his American Idol-style attempt to discover the next great MLB pitcher among young cricket players in India. The film is based on a true story.
"I knew JB personally before I even got in the film business, and he told me about this," says former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher and Million Dollar Arm producer Mark Ciardi. "So when he told me the idea that he was going to go to India to do a reality show about finding the hardest-throwing pitcher, I said, 'Wow, I think that is almost impossible.'"
What happened? Bernstein discovered not one but two 18-year-olds with the chops for MLB tryouts.
So here's how the Disney contest works (official rules here): Any U.S. residents 18 or older can compete in preliminary pitching rounds at Disney World in Orlando, Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., or Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day at the Tribeca Family Festival.
Three hardest-throwing contestants from each location will not only win tickets to Million Dollar Arm's May 6 Hollywood premiere, but on the big night, all nine will have a chance to nab a cool $1 million — provided he or she can land a smokin' 100 mph strike.
Ciardi knows these are long odds. "Try it. See how hard it is!" he encourages, calling from a Budapest film set. "Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who won the (India) contest, had the chance to come back to America and train and try out for an MLB team. And they did and got signed."
Even when the pros cross the 100 mph threshold, it's remarkable. In 1974, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan made the Guinness Book of World Records when his fastball clocked in at 100.9 mph. In 2011, Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman threw the hardest pitch ever recorded, a rocking 105.1-mph fastball.
Just this Thursday, USA TODAY Sports reported that Royals rookie Yordano Ventura threw a 102.9-mph heater that registered as the fastest pitch thrown by a starter in regular-season play.
Could a mere mortal be next to win big out of left field? In two words: Start throwing.