March 8, 2010
For Sati Houston, the California softball team winning the 2002 Women's College World Series was not just something she watched on the television. Little did she know that when she and her family gathered around the television to watch the Golden Bears capture the first national team title for a women's team in Cal history, she would strive for the same thing eight years down the line.
Prior to the 2008-09 school year, Houston achieved a life-long dream by walking on to the California softball team, but she did not take the usual roads to collegiate athletics.
Hailing from a family of Cal alumni - her mother owns a bachelor's degree in biology and her father has a B.A. and Masters in architecture - Berkeley was a natural choice for the San Francisco product. During the spring semester of her freshman year, Sati agreed to do a favor for her former travel ball coach, but it was no ordinary favor. Her coach also managed the City College of San Francisco squad, and had high hopes for that year's steam but lacked a catcher so he called upon his former player.
Not only did she attend classes full-time at Cal, but she also matriculated at CCSF for a combined total of 27 units between the two institutions in addition to commuting to play softball in the City. Houston noted that she would spend Tuesday and Thursday in Berkeley and trek to San Francisco using Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), for she has no license, to play softball, all the while living in Berkeley.
"It wasn't easy," Houston said of her hectic schedule. "We'd have away games Monday evenings, but I'd have to be up early on Tuesday mornings for my Cal classes."
The CCSF squad look poised to achieve the coach's goal of a state championship for they were nationally ranked prior to spring break. However, the season did not end on such a positive note, a "heart-breaking" experience according to Houston. However, that disappointment and the entire experience of playing for CCSF provided the 5-5 catcher with enough motivation and drive to try out for the California team.
Becoming a Bear
After e-mailing the softball program in June, she got a response later that summer with an opportunity to try out with the Bears before school started. She had just three days to get all of her paperwork - eligibility forms, a physical, SAT scores and high school transcript to name a few - before having what she thought would be a wide group try out.
"I was anticipating a lot of people, but I was the only person trying out!" Houston recalled. "It was just me and the two assistant coaches, Tammy and John and volunteer assistant Julie Meyers stopped by."
With head coach Diane Ninemire tied up in meetings that day, Tammy Lohmann and John Reeves put through Sati though a variety of drills. Reeves, the Cal pitching coach, threw to Houston and had her throw down to the different bases to see how she would fare behind the plate for the Bears.
"The whole process was so nerve-wracking," Houston said. "Moreover, it was surreal to be talking to the coaching staff I had watched for my entire life and to be on the field I had only seen from the stands."
Houston then chatted with Ninemire for an interview. The two discussed why Sati wanted to be on the team, if she would be a good candidate for the squad and what it really entailed to be a member of the perennial powerhouse Cal softball team.
Ninemire recalls the meeting fondly.
"She told me that she watched us win the 2002 national championship and that it was a lifetime dream for her to even have the possibility of being a member of the team," Ninemire said. "What struck me was her overall attitude. She had such enthusiasm to pursue playing Division I softball at Cal. With her parents as well as other people in her life attending Cal, Sati has such enthusiasm for Cal overall."
To walk on to any college sports team is a major achievement, but for Sati - that's just part of her story. Houston is also an engineering student, one of the most academically challenging and time-consuming majors a Bear can choose at Cal.
In addition to keeping up with team practices and road trips, Houston also manages a rigorous and incredibly demanding class schedule.
"By far, balancing engineering and softball has been the most ambitious endeavors in time-management that I have ever attempted," Houston said. "To make the two co-exist is difficult and perhaps a bit crazy, but I treasure the challenge, and I have not regretted my decision."
Even the coaches are impressed.
"It's very difficult for her to balance the two fields - academics and athletics," Ninemire said. "To even think about doing that, you have to be really dedicated to do both, and Sati is."
Off the Diamond
When she's not studying or practicing, Houston has a wide array of interests, and at the top of the list are cooking and reading. Even the best time managers need an escape, and Sati notes that those two activities are usually done when she's procrastinating. Being adventurous is another positive characteristic and trying new sports is way to spend what little precious free time Houston has. Since enrolling at Cal in the fall of 2007, Houston has tried crew, swimming and Ultimate Frisbee and is a Pilates instructor in training.
A cross country runner as a prepster at Lowell High School, Sati originally began running in order to stay in shape for softball, but she still finds time for that passion nowadays.
With her hometown just a short ride across the Bay Bridge - or under the San Francisco Bay on BART - Houston can also be found in San Francisco.
"It's both wonderful and convenient," she said of her native city. "The ability to go home whenever I want to see my parents or when I need to do laundry is a definite perk. Furthermore, it allows me to explore this side of the Bay Area, as my previous adventures have all been on the `West Coast' of the Bay."
One place you will not be likely to find Sati is in a hospital emergency room.
"Whenever I read about a disease - its symptoms and consequences - or am around sick people, I always believe that I have that disease/illness," Houston remarked when asked if she has any irrational fears. "The few times I have been in the ER, I thought as soon as I walked in the door, that I was going to die from multiple, immediately contracted diseases. I am also deeply afraid of being paralyzed."
With a first name that is unique in multiple cultures, Sati notes that she has heard every variation under the world of her name.
"Salty, Shoddy, Sautee, SATS, Sawdi, Sady," Houston said to name a few. "Salt is my teammate Valerie Arioto's favorite."
The moniker, which was chosen for her by her father, has multiple meanings. In India, Sati is another name for Dakshayani, the first wife of Shiva. In Egypt, Houston explains that Sati is the deification of the flooding of the Nile River and it is most commonly symbolized by the Eye of Ra, which is the iconic symbol for Egypt.
"My father knew of both of these meanings and thought it a good fit."
One day, Sati hopes to travel across the Pacific to Taiwan, the homeland of her mother.
"I want to amaze everyone with my ability to speak Mandarin," she said.
But for now, Sati is occupied with earning her degree in engineering and helping the Bears in their quest to make the postseason for the 24th consecutive year.
The road to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series continues this weekend with Cal hosting the California Tournament from Friday, March 12-Sunday, March 14. The Bears welcomes East Carolina, Fullerton and UC Davis to the four-team, five-game weekend, with all of the games taking place at Levine-Fricke Field in Berkeley. Cal will play ECU on March 12 at 3 p.m., Fullerton on March 13 at 3 p.m. and close the weekend with a doubleheader against Davis on March 14 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
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