Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis sits in the dugout in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Turner Field. (Photo: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports)
by Matt Pearl, 11Alive.com
- Atlanta Braves player Evan Gattis has become the talk of Major League Baseball with a hot start this season.
- Gattis traveled more than 100,000 miles working small jobs and battling depression.
- A hot prospect out of high school, Gattis committed to play college ball at Texas A&M but went to rehab instead.
ATLANTA -- Evan Gattis has made it.
He has made the major leagues and the Atlanta Braves.
But his road to the Braves stretched more than 100,000 miles. It featured stops in numerous states, jobs as a janitor and mechanic, and a long-term battle with depression.
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What Gattis saw on that road cannot compare to what he overcame.
"You could have all the money in the world," Gattis told 11Alive's Matt Pearl in a sit-down interview last weekend. "But what good is it without you there to spend it? What's water if you're not thirsty?"
Gattis was raised in the suburbs of Dallas, and initially he had no interest in baseball. "I cried the first day I got signed up for baseball, believe it or not," Gattis recalls. "I was in the backyard, chasing snakes and planting carrots."
Yes, as a rug rat, Gattis was a bug rat. He soon gravitated to baseball, and those around him quickly realized his potential.
"I guess at 10 (years old), we were playing on 200-foot fences," said Tommy Hernandez, head coach of the Dallas Tigers traveling team on which Gattis played. "He'd clear that easily."
Jo Gattis, Evan's father, had another anecdote: "I had parents saying, 'Your son throws the ball too hard! Tell him not to throw the ball so hard.' I said, 'You need to teach your son how to catch!'"
A hot prospect out of high school, Gattis committed to play college ball at Texas A&M. But he didn't go. Instead, he went to rehab for marijuana.
Looking back, neither Gattis nor his father believe drugs were the real issue.
"The fear of failing, that's what got him," said Jo Gattis. "He thought, 'I don't want to go down there and fail a drug test.'"
Said Evan Gattis, "I was still convinced that something was wrong with me, that something wasn't right."
Gattis emerged from rehab and gave baseball another shot at Seminole State College in Oklahoma. He got hurt, never played, and finally snapped.
"I was sitting in a classroom," he remembers, "and I just started crying. I was just like, 'This is not what I want my life to be like.' So I packed up my bags and got in the car, like, 'I'm done.'"
From there, Gattis went to great lengths to figure out what was causing his depression. He took odd jobs as a golf cart operator and machine shop worker. He worked at a ski resort in Colorado and in a restaurant at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. He sought spiritual advisors and followed one to New Mexico.
"It wasn't fun for me," Gattis said. "It was survival. It was like, 'Something's wrong, and I know it.'"
For the most part, those close to Gattis chose not to intervene, offering support but allowing the young man to figure things out on his own.
The one time his father tried to chat with him about it, the conversation did not go well.
"I decided to have that talk on the porch," Jo Gattis said. "I said, 'You're selling yourself short. You're a good baseball player.' And then he looked and said, 'I am never playing baseball again.'"
In his interview with Matt Pearl, Gattis addressed his recent revelation to USA Today that, during that time, he dealt with constant thoughts about killing himself.