"My whole worth as a person was as a baseball player. If I failed at that, where would I be?"
-Evan Gattis, on explaining the pressures which lead to his 4-year hiatus from baseball.
FEB 19th, 2012-It goes without saying that most ball players, if given the option, would like to advance their careers as quickly as possible.
They don't plan to take their time, don't want to spend too long in the low minors, and they want to get at it as soon as possible. Most players, that is.
Sometimes, however, Life has other plans. Evan Gattis can tell you a thing or two about that.
First stop: Texas A&M, at which point our pal Life decided to deal Evan a heavy blow, one which would affect the next 4+ years of his life. In situations like this, I prefer to let the player himself explain things for himself. Suffice it to say that he slipped off the rails, if only temporarily. He was just a kid, and a kid with what must have seemed like the weight of the world on his shoulders. He did what he could to cope, as we all do. The Aggies were not in his future, as it turned out.
Next stop: Seminole State College in Oklahoma. There, he suffered a knee injury and hit the wall, turning his back on baseball. That was the end of the story, as far as the game is concerned. Evan had a much more important and far more serious game ahead of him. There were moments when his anger and frustration were too much to bear. No different than most any other young man, anywhere in the world. His real problem lay with how he coped with that anger. For a short time, he ran.
After that, he was nearly everywhere but a ball field. Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, California, all the while searching for answers, searching for himself, finding little in the process.
By the time he made it to San Francisco, he was living (if you can call it that) in his truck. A truck with a broken starter. The story is that he was trailing an area spiritualist looking for (you guessed it) answers. And surprisingly, that's where he found them. Well, one anyway. The one that mattered the most, for him.
The spiritualist offered this gem: Calm down. Relax. Chill.
And go figure, that was THE answer for Evan Gattis. Take it easy. For whatever reason, it worked.
By this time, he had been away from the game for 4 years. Four. A phone call to his stepbrother Drew Kendrick, at the time playing for UT-Permian Basin, fixed that little problem. Well, it gave him a push start towards fixing things. It helped that UT-PB's coach remembered him from his high school playing days.
Kendrick knew what they were getting. The balls he hit, they had that “sound”. You know it if you hear it; the acoustic difference between a .22 and a 12-gauge. Scouts will tell you that “the sound” gets their attention, every time.
It didn't take long before the Atlanta Braves heard the sound, as well, and drafted him in the 23rd round of the 2010 Draft. By the looks of things, he might have been a real bargain. Especially when you consider the path he traveled in order to make it to Class A Rome; all the jobs, all the driving, all the searching, looking for Evan the man, running from Evan the ball player.
Turns out, he found him in California. A lot farther from home, but much closer to his heart than baseball in the Sally League turned out to be.
Which is as it should be.