Evan Gattis wasn’t expected to play in Major League Baseball this season. The 26-year-old catcher was a “non-roster invitee” to the Atlanta Braves spring training and was slated to spend 2013 back in A-ball, maybe Double-A.
I knew this before watching the Saturday afternoon game on Fox between the Braves and the Washington Nationals. Gattis, who’d made an ugly error on an easy pop-up on Friday night more than redeemed himself on Saturday with a two-run blast off the Nats’ Stephen Strasburg (who is among the best pitchers on the planet). That’s when the broadcasters got talking about Gattis’ story.
He’s from Forney. According to the Braves media guide, that’s still where he resides, and he attended Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas. He was supposed to go to Texas A&M to play ball, but as this Atlanta Journal-Constitution article recounts, he chose the road far less traveled. He took to a semi-itinerant life working as a ski lift operator and a housekeeper at a hostel, among other jobs. A few years ago he was a janitor for Datamatic, which is in Plano. Eventually he decided he wanted to return to baseball, even though he’d been away from the game for several years.
Gattis made the team largely because the Braves’ usual starter is on the disabled list. Meanwhile, with Gattis behind the plate, the Braves have the best record in baseball through the first two weeks, 11-1. And Gattis has found himself hitting fourth (the “clean-up” position) in their lineup because he’s off to such a hot start, boasting a .324 batting average, and 1.120 OPS (that’s very good) with 4 homers in 9 games played. Standing 6-foot, 4-inches with 230 pounds on his frame, sporting a beard, and swinging his bat without the use of batting gloves, it’s easy to see why some of his teammates refer to him as a “lumberjack.” He had an even better name playing the the Venezuelan Winter League: El Oso Blanco (“The White Bear”).
Hope he keeps playing like a star. His Twitter avatar, a picture of his photo ID from his time as a janitor, is a reminder of where he’s been.