For all intents and purposes, Amar Mahmood is a late-bloomer in the game of baseball.
The Edmonton product loved the game, but admits he was out of shape in high school and “not very good” on the diamond.
He had been cut from various teams, and was simply playing the game for fun while training at St. Francis Xavier Academy in Grades 10 and 11 then 5 Tool Fieldhouse in Grade 12.
That’s when he met Absolute Human Performance (AHP) founder Taylor Burns, who convinced Mahmood to take a gap year and play with AHP’s first academy team.
“No one really took me under their wings until Taylor,” Mahmood told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.
“It was the first time anyone took a chance on me.”
A year later, the right-handed infielder hasn’t just solidified his spot with De Anza College in California, but he’s expected to head to the World Baseball Classic qualifiers with Pakistan.
ALL IN THE NAME
A few months later, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound prospect was getting emails to start packing his bags for a trip to Panama City, Panama for the qualifiers, which are being held from Sept. 30th through Oct. 5th.
Pool B teams will include Pakistan as well as Panama, Nicaragua, Brazil, Argentina and New Zealand.
“I had never expected something like that and never even really thought about it,” Mahmood said.
“It’s a really cool opportunity and chance to represent a country on a bigger stage.”
It also means a lot to the 18-year-old as his parents are both from Pakistan. While his mother was obviously proud to hear the news, Mahmood laughs as he talks about his father’s reaction.
“My dad was over the top,” he said.
“He watches Pakistan cricket games, wrestling matches, everything. He was really excited and he doesn’t show emotion a lot.”
Not only was his family ecstatic about the opportunity, but Mahmood says his cell phone lit up with text messages and social media notifications from people all over the world sending him well wishes.
GO GET IT
When thinking about how far he’s come in just a few short months, Mahmood is quick to pass praise to his coaches at AHP.
He’s grateful for what they provided, and feels he owes it to Burns to prove that he made a good choice in giving him a shot.
“Going there, it never felt like I ‘had’ to get up early and go to bed early to practice,” Mahmood said.
“I ‘get’ to, and it’s a blessing I get to because the atmosphere they have there is next to none.”
The feeling is seemingly mutual for Burns, who was excited to share the news of Mahmood’s commitment to De Anza on social media.
“I often jokingly tell my athletes you’re either a fountain or a drain,” Burns tweeted.
“Amar is the definition of a fountain – always bringing the energy and making people’s days better.”
Mahmood doesn’t take those words lightly, and takes pride in knowing that he made a difference during his time at AHP, like helping the academy win a Perfect Game tournament in Las Vegas earlier this summer.
“You have to do something you enjoy doing and I love going to the gym, I love hitting baseballs off the tee and I love baseball,” he said.
“I think naturally when you do something you love, the energy just comes with it. It feeds to other people and you take it from other people and you just have fun with it.”
MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF
Not only is the World Baseball Classic qualifier an opportunity to play the game he loves at a high level, Mahmood also recognizes it’s a chance to be a role model.
He knows there are other Pakistani-Canadians who might realize they can have those same professional baseball dreams, too.
While the goal in Panama will be to finish in the top two to earn a spot in the World Baseball Classic, Mahmood is also looking to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“The most important part is to have fun while I’m there,” he said.
“Getting to play at such a cool event that will get seen on TV and that kind of thing will be fun, but we also know that it’s a business trip at the same time.”
He would also love to make a name for himself in the tournament, as more doors could open for him to represent Pakistan at other events, even as large as the Olympics.
He has become a living example of his advice for young kids, hoping to carve out their own baseball journeys.
“Don’t let any failure hold you back,” Mahmood said.
“Believe in yourself and keep working hard, because it will all pay off.”