Saturday, February 18, 2012

All Roads Lead To Rome For Star Catcher...Eventually

"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. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Player Interview: Jordan Scott, OF, Tri-City Valleycats (Class A-, NY-Penn League)

FEB 16th, 2012-He's only nineteen. To look at him, you'd think he was even younger than that. Don't let that fool you.

Once he's on the field, his entire demeanor changes; the eyes become focused, the smile fades, and youth gives way to a grim determination which belies his age.

Houston Astros OF Jordan Scott is nothing if not determined. At least, that's the impression I got seeing him play at Class A Lexington. I'm confident with that assessment. But I wanted to get an idea of his playing philosophy directly from the source:

When you were drafted in 2010 (14th round), Astros scout J.D. Alleva noted your advanced bat control and awareness of the strike zone. Do you normally go to the plate with a specific idea about what you want to do, or do you more often rely on your physical ability and reflexes to make contact?

I definitely walk up to the plate with a plan, figuring out the situation and knowing where the defense is playing me and then letting my physical ability take over and get the job done.

What was the draft process like for you? Were there other teams who showed a serious interest in signing you?

It wasn't too bad and I actually had a lot of fun with it. It started early winter of my senior year where teams would come and have in home visits at my house, late winter I was invited to some preseason workouts with teams, after my season I was invited to pre-draft workouts. After those workouts I stayed in contact with all the scouts and figured out what it would take for me to sign.  As far as other teams involved there was probably a handful that showed serious interest in drafting me.

In your time at Lexington, I noticed that you seemed to take an all-business approach to the game. Do you see yourself as an extremely intense competitor or are you generally more even-keel throughout the year?

I am an intense competitor. There are times I am laid back and times where I am all-business.  When I am on the field I am all business. I make sure I get all my work in before the game so I give myself the best opportunity to succeed during the game. Off the field and in the locker room I am laid back and just try to have fun with all the guys.

At this early point in your career, what do you feel are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

I still need to get better in all areas of my game, but right now my best strength is my hitting.  I spend a lot of time on it and I am really dedicated on getting better and hopefully and I can add some power in the years to come.  My weakness is my defense.  I need to get better reading the ball off the bat and taking better routes to the ball.   

Some players go into pro ball with a general idea of what to expect. Did you have a preconceived notion as to what it would be like, and if so, how did that compare with what you've experienced?

I knew once I signed it wasn't just a game it was also my job.  I knew it was going to be a lot of work and very competitive,  a lot of guys out there competing for the same position.  I don't take anything for granted. I go out there each day and compete and try to make my self better.

What has been your most memorable experience on the field thus far?

Most memorable moment was with Lexington this past year and playing the Greenville Drive in my hometown.  It was a lot fun a lot of friends and family came out to support me.  It was a great experience and something I won't forget.

When you reached Class A Lexington, you were among the youngest players in the league. Did you feel like there was a significant jump in terms in the pitching you faced? Was there anything specific you learned from the coaches or players that you feel has helped you as a player?

No it wasn't a whole lot different.  The game was a little more crisp and pitchers were more consistent.  At each level it is still the same game. I just prepare myself the best I can and just trust in myself and play the game to win.

Knowing that there are countless hours spent riding the bus from city to city, do you have a favorite activity you use to pass the time?

The bus rides are the worst for me because I can't sleep at all so I listen to music and get on my laptop to kill time.

What do you normally like to do in your off-time?

I usually try to get as much rest as possible.  During the season we put in a lot of time and work and it just wears your body down so it is always nice to get a day off and just rest up.

If there was any one piece of advice you could pass on to younger players, what would that be?

My advice would be to always work hard because there is someone always watching.  You may not have the most athletic ability, but you have the ability to be the hardest worker. Coaches always notice the hardest workers and it will take you a long way in this game.