It’s the best story of the young MLB season so far. Braves backup catcher Evan Gattis was working as a janitor and a ski lift operator after being a star baseball player in Texas. Instead of going to play for Texas A&M, Gattis ended up in drug rehab and a halfway house. There he was diagnosed with depression. He had turned into a “what could’ve been” story. After years of bouncing around odd jobs and becoming sober, Gattis got the itch to play the game he loved as child again.
He enrolled at the University of Texas-Permian Basin. I don’t know what that is either. I only know Permian as the town from “Friday Night Lights” not the place where Major League careers are made. Gattis hit .403 in his only year with the school, but it was enough to catch the eye of the Braves who took a chance on him in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft.
He had his chance in the minors finally and crushed pitching hitting .308 with 44 home runs in 832 minor league at-bats. A shoulder injury to Brian McCann gave Gattis an outside shot of making the Braves roster as a 26-year old rookie who had never played in AAA. Gattis saw his opportunity and ran with it hitting a blistering .368 with six home runs (2nd best on the Braves) during Spring Training. Gattis became a fan favorite with his power, bare-handed batting grip, funky batting stance, awesome nickname (El Oso Blanco), and his backstory. After all he had been through, Gattis broke down in tears when manager Fredi Gonzalez told him he earned the last roster spot as Gerald Laird’s backup while McCann was out.
In the second game of the season, Gattis received his first start behind the plate. He struck out in his first plate appearance, but his 2nd at-bat with his father being interviewed on the Braves broadcast, we were reminded why sports can be so great.
The MLB highlight can be found here. Apologies that it won’t let me embed it into the blog.
You can follow Gattis on Twitter @BulldogBeing, where of course his Twitter avatar is his work card from being a janitor. Gattis is a shining example of never giving up.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)