FEB 23rd, 2012-As a follow-up to my previous article on Evan Gattis, I asked him for some personal insight into the long, arduous path he traveled from his time as a troubled teen to All-Star catcher in the pro ranks. He was kind enough to oblige.
When you left baseball initially, what would you say was the greatest reason?
I felt like there was something more important I had to "figure out".
Did you feel that baseball had, more or less, become your whole life, and that it had somehow made you forget who you were as a person, apart from the game? That you had to remember who you were, in a sense?
Not so much the baseball part of it. I felt like there was something missing no matter how good I was at ball.
But I like that you (mention) "remember", because when people feel like themselves, it's an overwhelmingly familiar sense.
That's a very good answer. When you first hit the road, did you have an idea as to what you wanted to accomplish, or was it just a matter of getting away from the world you knew and learning a bit about life in general?
Well, I finished a semester of junior college when I was enrolled at Seminole State College (Oklahoma) and I was actually giving up the "spiritual search" initially, but later on I wanted to surround myself with people of common interest.
So you were driven to learn about yourself, as well as what life was really about?
Yeah, whatever the motivation the story for everyone is the same; for me it was for relief of depression. Some people lose a child, some people do outrageously courageous things and they don't know how they did it, some people go their whole life with a sense of lack and they know their death is approaching. It happens differently for everyone but it's the same dynamic. It's a search, it wasn't like a hobby. I wanted help.
I can certainly relate to that. I understand the impact that depression can have on both the life of the person suffering and the friends and family who care for that person. I've seen it both as a health care provider and as someone who's suffered from it, personally.
Right, it's hard on everyone. And who wants to be around a depressed person? And who wants to be depressed?
It's hard for a lot of people to understand, so I think they shy away from the subject. At what point did you feel like you had reached an understanding about what you were going through? Was there a moment of epiphany for you?
Many, in fact. It seemed to be a process. The endgame was in Santa Cruz. I knew I had nothing to look for, and it's funny; when you don't look you find (it). Not that you find anything, just that you don't have to look, because the search is exhausting.
Would you say your experiences on the road strengthened your desire to play baseball, or perhaps allowed you to enjoy the game more?
I appreciate it more. I can enjoy it full on, without wondering if there is something more important to be doing.
So your time away from the game was sort of a liberating experience for you, in many ways?
Yes, that was the whole point: liberation!
Now I'd like to ask you about your experiences with rehab, if you're comfortable with talking about that.
Yeah. I was 17 and terrified of failing a drug test for pot, and I didn't want to be a "mess up".
So it was an easy decision for you?
It kind of happened fast and I was depressed. Seemed like a good decision.
Certainly seems like it worked out for you. Last question: was rehab particularly tough for you, or did you get through it without much much difficulty?
It wasn't tough and kind of refreshing. It wasn't the happiest of places, but it was good to talk to people.