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What a long, strange trip it's been for Evan Gattis.
He signed to play at Texas A&M out of high school but never showed up, afraid of failure.
It wasn't only failing on the field that scared the 18-year-old, as he told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
“I was terrified – I didn’t want to fail a drug test. I didn’t want to be a mess-up, you know? I didn’t want to fail at that stage and have people say, ‘Here’s this kid with all this talent and he wasted it; what a shame’ and all that.”.
At the urging of his mother, he entered a rehab facility instead to help kick a habit of self-medicating with marijuana and alcohol. After rehab, he'd play a season for Seminole State in Oklahoma but got hurt and wound up quitting baseball.
“I was so overwhelmed with everything that I ended up quitting, At that time I planned on going back to college and finishing my degree in psychology or something.”
He'd never step foot on campus again.
A trip to visit his sister in Boulder, Colorado results in Gattis moving there and finding work at a pizza parlor and as a lift operator at Eldora Mountain, hitch-hiking to work (he sold his truck when he moved).
Less than a year after moving, the urge to relocate got under his skin once again, so he and his brother, who was working at a ski resort in Utah, move back to Texas.
They worked as janitors. Actually that's not quite accurate: his official title was "Facilities Service Technician", printed on his work ID card that now serves as his avatar on Twitter. They worked as cart-boys at a local golf course.
“Right about this time I started finding these spiritual teachers or whatever on YouTube,” Gattis tells O'Brien, “and I thought, these mother******s know what I’m talking about. They’re speaking my language, whatever they’re saying.”
So back west he went, in search of spiritual enlightenment. First to New Mexico, then to California, where after meeting with one guru who essentially told him to "chill out," Gattis had another itch.
He wanted to play ball again, and promptly made two phone calls.
The first was to his father, telling him that he was coming home. The second was to his stepbrother, Drew Kendrick, a pitcher at the University of Texas-Permian Basin who's coach remembered Gattis from high school and offered him a spot on the team.
Eight years after graduating high school, Evan Gattis was drafted in the 23rd round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Atlanta Braves.
Three years later, he's the starting catcher in Atlanta (at least until Brian McCann returns from offseason shoulder surgery). Whether he has a long-term future in Atlanta remains to be seen, but his story is one of the more remarkable tales that you'll hear.
"I think [my past] has made me appreciate [being in the big leagues] more," Gattis told MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. "It's hard not to."