How Skyline alum Shahid Sattar went from out of baseball to the World Baseball Classic

hat would the fall season be without time-off requests at a workplace? With weddings, college homecomings and the impending holidays, the months of September, October and November are prime time for that I’ll-be-out-of-town message.

Try this one on for size:

“Hey, guys, I’m about to tell you one of the weirdest things, and I’m going to need some time off for it,” Shahid Sattar told his bosses at Dallas-based Riveron Consulting Firm.

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“You’re probably going to think I’m lying, but, I’ll be playing for Team Pakistan in the World Baseball Classic.”

If you think his employers were surprised, so too was Sattar, a former Skyline High and UT-Dallas baseball player who hadn’t played baseball since 2013. Because in the span of three months, Sattar went from slow-pitch softball and golf to 90 mph fastballs in a batting cage and a trip to Panama for the World Baseball Classic qualifying round.

Sattar will fly out of Dallas on Wednesday morning, practice with the Pakistan national team on Thursday and play against Argentina on Friday at Panama’s Rod Carew Stadium. If it were to win, Pakistan would play Panama in the qualifying semifinals. The final round of qualifying would come after that.

Pakistan, which has never sent a player to the major leagues, has also never qualified for the international tournament that includes the United States, Dominican Republic, Japan and other traditional baseball powerhouses. The tournament itself, last won by the United States in 2017, begins in March.

Now Sattar, 29, can help his father’s home country reach unprecedented heights.

“Surreal,” Sattar described it.

No kidding. Let’s rewind and explain how he got here.

‘It seems like a Disney movie’
It was July when a direct message notification popped up on Sattar’s Twitter account.

Pakistan Baseball Federation (@pakbaseball), a profile with just over 500 followers, asked Sattar if he had any Pakistani lineage, and if he’d be interested in playing for the country’s national team. It seemed, at the very least, a bit suspicious.

The inquiry came two months after Sattar’s cousin Omar Arif — a former Mesquite Poteet, TCU and professional player — had been approached by a Baltimore Orioles scout in May and asked a similar question. Arif, now 38 and over a decade removed from his playing days, had signed on to play.

“The first thing I do is screenshot the [direct message]and send it to my cousin like, ‘Hey, is this legit?’” Sattar said. “Because two hours later I was sending this dude a picture of my passport, and I definitely would have gotten scammed.”

No scam, thankfully for Sattar. But his addition to Pakistan’s roster — which includes a mix of players from the country, high school seniors and college baseball players with Pakistani roots and even former NFL quarterback Gibran Hamdan, who played college baseball at Indiana — did come with something of an assignment. A former all-district middle infielder at Skyline from 2007-11 and third baseman at UT-Dallas, it had been nine years since Sattar took a competitive at-bat.

Sattar, above all else, needed to reacclimate his arm to throwing a baseball, and refamiliarize himself with facing high-speed pitches at the plate. He enlisted the help of former UT-Dallas teammates, his high school hitting coach Paul Ahearne, Skyline coach Steve Robinson (who didn’t coach Sattar in high school, but has spent evenings and weekends running drills) and even his fiancé, Kate Reagan, to help him return to playing form in the span of two months.

“It’s been really fun to see him in this environment,” said Reagan, who met Sattar in college but had never seen him in baseball form. “And how dedicated he’s been to getting back in shape, and hitting and fielding groundballs, and all the things I didn’t know were apart of baseball.”

Sattar’s return to the sport, especially on this stage, has of course come with the intrigue of others. One coworker promised to give Sattar his entire year’s signing bonus if he hit a home run. A friend joked about the possibility of Pakistan facing Team USA — and its loaded roster that is expected to include Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Pete Alonso — if it were to qualify for the tournament.

“One thing the team has asked me to do is, ‘Hey, can you eat an inning up [on the mound]if we need someone’,” Sattar said. “Imagine me going in there — if we do make it — throwing meatballs to Mike Trout, telling my kids I gave up 500-foot home runs to Mike Trout.”

Imagine that.

“It seems like a Disney movie in that way,” Reagan said. “This guy who works in finance gets to relive his boyhood baseball dreams and play the pros.”

Representing Pakistan — and Dallas
Haji Sattar moved to the United States 45 years ago. He played cricket back in his home country and knew nothing of baseball. But through Shahid — his son — he fell in love with the sport as the younger Sattar climbed the ranks.

“Probably our biggest bonding experience was us traveling and me going in playing in tournaments,” Sattar said. “Seeing his excitement, from me playing again, is one of the most rewarding things.”

To do so in Pakistani colors is even sweeter.

“My dad is not one for many words,” Sattar said. “But you can tell he’s so excited that I’ll be playing for his country. It’s going to be cool to give him a shadow box jersey, the Pakistan jersey. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of, to be able to play for a country, whether it’s the United States or in this case, Pakistan.

“Being able to try to grow baseball in the country [my dad]is from, it’s a full circle experience for me.”

Sattar, alongside Robinson, has spent time practicing at Skyline’s baseball field. Sattar pitched batting practice to Skyline players on Monday, helped another with his swing and then collected balls from the field before he and Robinson practiced pop flies. Pakistan, Sattar said, had asked on Saturday if he could play the outfield in a pinch.

“That’s important for kids to see,” Robinson said. “That people that come from Skyline are successful, on the field as well as off the field. He’s an example of what Dallas ISD and Skyline athletes can be, and also an example of what Dallas ISD student athletes can become. Him doing what he’s doing, it adds respectability to our program.”

Pakistan’s World Baseball Classic qualifying schedule (all games in Panama City, Panama)