From Janitor to Pro Baseball Player

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My 14 year old son is obsessed with baseball and has an Instagram following of over 10,000 people. (Yes, I’m jealous and currently using him as a consultant for my own social media!)

Yesterday, he was sharing with me about his latest post (his photo above), about Evan Gattis. I was so inspired that I had to tell you about it.

Here is his story:

Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis sits back in front of his locker and shuts his eyes as he considers divulging one of the darkest, most intimate secrets of his life.

When he opens them again, words trickle out of his mouth, bringing back the anguish and torment of three days in the summer of 2007 that he says nearly ended his life.

“I was in a mental hospital,” he tells USA TODAY Sports. “I couldn’t sleep for an entire week, and I knew something was wrong with me. So I got admitted. I was so depressed, all I could think about was killing myself.”

The rookie sensation is a 26-year-old former janitor, who, for over four years, meandered through life before signing with the Atlanta Braves. Gattis was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety six years ago and through medication, therapy and time, eventually discovered what he wanted out of life.

“I remember him telling his life story to three of us in the weight room in spring training,” Braves bullpen catcher Alan Butts says, “and by the time he was done, 20 guys stopped what they were doing to listen. We didn’t know what to say. Finally, I said, ‘Dude, that’s unbelievable.’

“Now, everywhere we go, you see other teams stop what they’re doing to watch him take BP and say, ‘Who is this kid?’

Gattis, 6-4, 235 pounds, who had played 49 games higher than Class A and none above Class AA, openly wept when Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told him at the end of spring training that he made the team.

In 2004, Gattis was among the most prized high school players in the country.

“He had tools you just don’t see,” says Gerald Turner, 70, the Dallas-based scout who followed Gattis and says his power and throwing arm ranked near the top of the scouting scale. “He might be the strongest human being I’ve ever shook hands with.”

Gattis projected to be selected no later than the eighth round of the 2004 draft but indicated he would rather attend college. He had a scholarship offer with defending NCAA champion Rice to play first base. But he wanted to catch and instead accepted a scholarship to Texas A&M.

“And then dropped off the face of the earth,” Turner says.

Gattis says he started abusing alcohol and marijuana during his senior year of high school. He sank into a deep hole, torn by his parents’ divorce, his father says, and, his mother says, self-imposed pressure to excel at the game he loved.

Gattis never showed up at Texas A&M. Instead, he was admitted to Sundown Ranch Recovery Center, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Canton, Texas, then spent three months at a halfway house.

He tried college again at Seminole State Junior College in Oklahoma but, after redshirting as a freshman, played half a season and gave up on baseball and dropped out of school.

Gattis says he spent the next four years working as a car valet in Dallas; a ski lift operator at the Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado and Taos, N.M; a pizza cook at Nick-N-Willy’s in Boulder, Colo.; a housekeeper at the Abominable Snowmansion hostel in Taos, and another in Flagstaff, Ariz.; a machinery operator at Kimbrell’s Kustom Machine Shop in Garland, Texas; a golf cart attendant at the Firewheel Golf Course in Garland and a janitor for Jan-Pro Cleaning Systems in Plano, Texas.

“I don’t know,” Gattis says, “I guess I was just trying to find myself.”

It was baseball, his mother says, that played an instrumental role in her son’s depression. Gattis was always bigger and stronger than the other kids, whose mothers refused to let them play catch with him because he threw too hard. But baseball was his escape. He didn’t have to reflect on his parents’ divorce. He didn’t have to answer questions why he moved from his mom’s house to his dad’s house at 12 with another new family.

Yet the better he became in baseball, the more he played, the greater the expectations and the more anxiety and fear he felt.

“I was terrified of being a failure”


In 2010, Gattis, Drew Kendrick, at the University of Texas-Permian Basin. He had not swung a bat in four years but hit .403 with 11 homers. His coach, Brian Reinke, called his scouting friend, Turner, to come take a look.

“He put on a power display that day that I’ll never forget,” Turner says. “The wind was blowing in, and he still hit 15 to 20 homers out.

“When we got to the draft room (in 2010) in Atlanta, I told them his story, told them not to worry about his age and said, ‘This is one of the guys we have to take.'”
Gattis, who was drafted in the 23rd round, softly smiles at the memories, wondering if perhaps it was ordained that the potholes and barriers were necessary to find his path to success.

“When I look back,” Gattis says, “I’d probably do everything different. But I don’t regret any of it. There’s supposed to be a reason for everything, right?”

“It was a long road,” Gattis says, “and a lot of twists and turns. But I can say I have never been happier in my whole life.”

“It’s crazy, but I just feel so relaxed now,” Gattis says. “I’m having a blast. It was so tough to persevere, and that depression really beat me down, but I’ve overcome all of that.

“Hopefully I can be an inspiration to kids going through the same thing. There are a lot of kids out there depressed. You read about teenage suicides and the things kids go through, and it’s so sad.

“Maybe, when they know my story, they’ll see there’s a way out.

“I’m proof of that.”

Dreams have no expiration date.

Evan had the courage to step up and try again. Against all odds, he succeeded. He did it because he did not let anything stop him from fulfilling his dream. He looked fear in the face and kept on moving forward.

Never give up on something that you cant go a day without thinking about. Never let any obstacle stand in your way of your passion. You can overcome your challenges and live the life of your dreams.

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