Sometimes the longest, hardest journeys are exactly what we need to get us back to where we were supposed to be all along. Such is the story of Atlanta Braves’ rookie catcher Evan Gattis. It’s a story that Hollywood couldn’t even dream up.
Evan grew up just outside of Dallas, Texas, as one of the premier high school baseball players in the area. Despite excelling at the sport, Evan battled demons of fear every day. The idea that he could fail at this sport began to eat him alive. Still terrified at failure, Evan played well enough to earn a scholarship to Texas A&M during his senior year. And that’s where things fell apart. With his entire self-worth placed in his ability to excel at baseball, Evan began to pour himself into alcohol and marijuana. Instead of heading south to Texas A&M, Evan went to drug rehab at the age of 17. His 30-day inpatient stay was followed by three months in a halfway house.
Evan seemed to turn a corner when he got an offer from junior college in Oklahoma to come play. Evan took the chance, and after redshirting his freshman year, seemed primed to return to baseball glory. A knee injury and the grind of the game mentally wore Evan out halfway through the season and he walked away from the game.
A lost soul, Evan moved up to Colorado to his sister’s place in Boulder. He spent time working at a local pizza parlor and as a ski-lift resort operator. He still wasn’t happy, so Evan moved back to Dallas and spent time working with his brother as a janitor from a job he found on Craigslist.org. It was then that Evan found some videos of YouTube by spiritual advisors and felt a connection to what they were talking about. He met with one and subsequently followed her to New Mexico, before then heading to California in search of more spiritual advisors. Evan needed someone, anyone, to help him figure out his life and the direction he was headed.
Two days after being told that he “didn’t have to do anything. Just live life, chill out,” Evan realized he missed the game of baseball and wanted back in (Atlanta Journal Constitution). So four years after playing his last game in Oklahoma, Evan stepped back onto the field at the University of Texas-Permian Basin. He hit .403 with 11 homers in his first and only season in college. So much for being rusty.
The Atlanta Braves drafted Evan in the 23rd round of the 2010 MLB Draft but failed to make any roster within the team’s system. Another obstacle, but this time Evan wasn’t going to quit. He spent the off-season training and dropped 25-30 pounds, and showed up in 2011 in incredible shape. He moved up through the Braves’ system in 2011 and 2012 before earning an Opening Day roster spot with the MLB club for 2013. It didn’t take long for him to make an impact, hitting a home run (his first ever hit at the MLB level) against perennial All-Star Roy Halladay in his second at-bat.
It’s been one heckuva ride for the rookie but he knows he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be, playing the game he loves. Evan no longer obsesses over his performance and realizes his self-worth is much more than his onbase percentage. His journey was long and rocky, but in the end, it brought him to where he was destined all along.