Eight years ago, this guy graduated high school in Forney, Texas with a scholarship to play baseball for Texas A&M. He actually attended three different high schools in order to play for specific coaches. But he never made it to college.
A fear of failure kept him from following a college baseball career that he was meant for. Like most lost souls that do not have a clear life path or, in the case of this guy, a crippling fear of some sort, he turned to drugs and alcohol for comfort. He was 17. His mother sent him to a rehab facility outside Prescott, Arizona where he was diagnosed with clinical depression. He was terrified of being a failure at such a young age. Didn’t want to be talked about having so much potential and losing it all. But the baseball coach for a community college in Oklahoma asked him to join the team.
As a redshirt freshman, he played for half a year before injuring his knee and quitting. He planned to stay at the school and get a degree but he didn’t. He went to visit his sister in Boulder, Colorado and falls in love with the area. He sells his truck, works at a pizza parlor and also a job as a ski lift operator at a mountain resort. He hitch hikes to work. Then he goes back to Texas with his brother, who had been working at a ski resort in Utah. They both get jobs as janitors and then move on to being cart boys at a golf course. But then he wanted to find himself.
He moved to Taos, New Mexico after meeting a spiritual advisor on YouTube. She convinced him to follow her and he got a job at another ski resort there. A few months later, he left for California and encountered a famous spiritualist in Santa Cruz. The spiritualist told him to “chill out” and stop looking for his next new thing. Although this wasn’t what he wanted to hear, a few days later he felt the pull to play baseball again. He was in San Francisco at the time. He waited four hours for two cars to move that were parked behind him on a steep street, so he could roll his truck into an alley, where he gave a six-pack of beer to a homeless person to help him push-start it. The starter had died. He called his stepbrother, a pitcher at the University of Texas-Permian Basin. The coach there remembered him from high school and gave him a spot on the team. It took a few months to get back in the groove of playing baseball since he had not played since 2006. But he hit .403 with 11 homers in his only season at the school. Some teams were wary of his background, but the Braves drafted him in the 23rd round in 2010. And seriously, the rest is history…
Evan Gattis won a starting catcher’s spot on the 2013 Atlanta Braves team. In his second at-bat on his first major league start, he hit a solo home run. What was even more amazing is that his dad was being interviewed on live tv at the time. I saw it happen (I would have to be dead or unconscious to miss a Braves’ game) and I was overcome with emotion since I knew about Gattis’ life story. I am also a life-long fan of baseball in general and I understand the hold that the game can have over you. It’s powerful. If I were a boy, have no doubt I would be a pro ball player.
Isn’t this much like what our Christian journey entails? We start with a solid foundation of church and God’s Word. Then as we experience life’s hardships we often begin to doubt our foundations, turning to drugs or alcohol or sex for different answers. Finally, in our darkest hours, God either empowers us or sends an angel to bring us back to Him, where we find our freedom has always been. Baseball has been Gattis’ “God”, if you will, and being back on a baseball team where he belongs is his way of finding freedom. Listen to this:
“I think it might have seemed like a job, because it is a lot of work. But now I feel like I can work harder than some people because I legitimately want to and I enjoy it. I enjoy working hard, you know what I mean? I want to get better. I want to see what next year brings, and simple things like how strong am I pound for pound? Technique and all that stuff is going to come, and it comes because we work on it every day. You’re surrounded by instruction, and it’s fun to me now to work hard. It’s fun to try to make yourself better.”
That’s my goal as a Christian, to “get better”. Gattis wants to be a better ball player and I want to be closer to Christ. Can you imagine what other doors will open for him? Can you imagine the power of Christ coming at him full force that he has no doubt it’s for him? He’s already lead such a big life for a 26 year old, becoming a Christian should be his easiest step yet! I find his answer to this question very telling. He’s asked if he ever found what he was looking for. “I didn’t find anything,” he said, smiling. “But I don’t have to look anymore.” Now, I could be wrong, he could already be a believer. But if not, I’d love to help him get there!
2 Peter 3:13-14 – We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
I love this definition of scripture: Some people believe that He makes us good when He comes. No, it is now that we have the opportunity to be ready by His grace. He finds us ready. Gattis won’t have to worry about his past…he’s already perfect and acceptable in God’s eyes.
2 Corinthians 4:18 – While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
As Christians we know that the material will never make us totally happy. Maybe this was part of what Gattis was looking for, something physical he could hold in his hand. In my experience, loosing a business, a house, two cars, and other big ticket items showed me that my family and my faith will always stand the test of time. These are the things I can count on; God’s eternal love for me!
In any case, Gattis’ journey is an amazing story. It could have ended up really horribly but instead, when he stopped (and maybe listened), he followed the right path. I admire him and to tell the truth, am a little bit jealous! If I had lead a different life, I would have liked to travel the country going from job to job without a destination in mind. But we always come back to what we know, right? For some of us, it’s back to God and for others it’s back to baseball!