First off I’m not a Braves fan!
I don’t hate the Braves, far from it!! If I wasn’t a Cardinals fan then who knows? I may well have been drawn to the Braves in a different life! As it stands I’ll leave it to my buddy Chris Mays to spread the Braves love!
However, many months ago I read an article about Evan Gattis.
At the time I had no idea who he was – but his story intrigued me! I couldn’t help but be drawn in to what had happened to this guy and how he’d gone about his journey to the majors!
The notion of a ‘journey’ is a somewhat overused cliche these days, especially in the world of celebrity. Anyone who’s anyone has to go on some sort of ‘journey’ – some sort of voyage of self-discovery. To suffer for one’s art, to toil, to know sacrifice, only to come out the other side stronger and somehow transformed!
The thing is, this idea of a journey is something that perfectly sums up the life of Evan Gattis! One long, incredible journey!
Here’s the main part of a great little article from back in April by Monte Burke, a feature writer for Forbes Life, that provides us with a succinct insight into the man that Evan Gattis was, and the man he’s become -
The best story in the early stages of the 2013 baseball season is, to my mind, the odyssey of Atlanta Braves catcher, Evan Gattis.
Gattis, a very large man at 6’4” and 230 pounds, made the Braves big-league roster this year primarily, it was believed, to keep the seat warm for Brian McCann, the team’s All-Star catcher who is on the disabled list until later on this month. But Gattis has done much more than that: He has started the season batting .333, with 3 home runs and 6 RBIs. He is a big reason that the Braves are off to an 9-1 start, despite the fact that two of their stars—Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton—are off to horrid starts (.097 and .091 batting averages, respectively), and another (Freddie Freeman) is on the disabled list. The Braves clearly want his bat in the lineup as much as possible: He played at first base last night, a bit shakily at times.
But his production alone is only a small part of the story. Gattis, 26, is baseball’s spiritual wanderer.
At age 18 Gattis was a hot college baseball prospect in his hometown of Forney, Texas. He signed to play at Texas A&M, but never showed up, the result of an early-life existential crisis. Gattis, at the urging of his mother, entered a rehab facility to help kick a developing habit for marijuana and alcohol. He then played a season with Seminole State in Oklahoma, but got hurt. He quit baseball. Then he set off on his journey.
He went west, initially to Boulder, Colorado. He worked odd jobs, as a cart boy at a golf course, a ski-lift operator and a janitor (he uses his janitor ID as his Twitter avatar). He sought out various spiritual advisors, and after consultations, felt like he was back on track and done with his wanderings. “I was just done looking for whatever it was I was looking for. I was done with it. It cleared up in kind of a final way where, without a shadow of a doubt, I just knew I didn’t have to do that anymore,” he told USA Today.
And then in 2010 he decided to give baseball another try. He played a season at the University of Texas-Permian Basin, where his stepbrother was a pitcher. He mashed the ball. The Braves took him in the 23rd round of the MLB draft. He didn’t make the team that year. He lost weight (he had ballooned to 270 pounds). He played winter ball in Venezuela, where the fans called him “El Oso Blanco” (the white bear).
Then he came to the Braves camp this spring. McCann, the team knew, would be out for an extended time. The Braves brought in a veteran catcher, Gerald Laird. But Gattis refused to be ignored. He batted .357 with 6 homers and 16 RBIs in the Grapefruit League. He made the big-league roster. He hit a home run in his very first major league game, as the TV announcers were interviewing his father. Right now, he’s a bargain for the Braves, with a salary of $490,000.
There is no way to know how this will all play out. Sluggers come and go quickly in the majors. Pitchers find a weak spot and exploit it ruthlessly. Gattis could be a flash in the pan, despite suggestions that he could take McCann’s spot for good. Or, just maybe, his unlikely odyssey could continue. Either way, we should enjoy this story while it lasts.
My thanks to Monte Burke for that piece. It was far better than anything I could have put together and perfectly encapsulated how great Evan Gattis’ story is!
If Gattis does indeed end up being a flash in the pan then so be it! If that’s what the great tapestry of life has in store for him then I guess he’ll just start on his next journey all the richer (metaphysically speaking) from his time spent with the Braves!
Personally I hope he succeeds beyond measure! I’m sure in his own eyes he already has.
Tales such as Gattis’ don’t come around all that often, but when they do they just enrich the great game of Baseball ever further. Gattis’ story serves as a great reminder to us all in the power of self-belief, self-reflection and especially in second chances!
And that’s why I love Evan Gattis so much!