When the Astros traded three top prospects for Evan Gattis, they didn’t just trade for his future, but they also receive his past. I am not referring to Gattis’s stats with the Braves, but the story of his early struggles with his demons that will make you appreciate how far he has come. Everyone knows the story of former top prospect Josh Hamilton and his struggles with addictions, but El Oso Blanco’s tale comes from a more modest start.
Evan Gattis’s Early Struggles
The story starts as a High School student, as Gattis battled addiction problems with alcohol and marijuana. Why would a promising athlete turn to alcohol and marijuana at such a young age? The same reason thousands of other High School students do it, to get away from the depression they feel. As a teacher, I first hand see how depression can affect kids. Gattis now reveals that even as a young child, around five years old, suffered from depression.
Growing up in Dallas, Gattis’s plan was to attend Texas A&M, but a stint in a rehabilitation center squashed that bug quickly. What led to his depression, was a fear of failing on the field. What used to be something fun for Gattis, became something that caused him anxiety. Like most teenagers, he tried to conquer his anxiety by trying to numb it.
A quote from The White Bear Chronicles;
"“I was a scared kid that smoked too much pot, a 17-year-old,” he said. “I never really gave myself a chance to fail, so really the big thing was coming back and playing and kind of go face these fears and kind of march back into it. At least if I fail, I’ll be a success just to go do it instead of chickening out or just being afraid.”"
Instead of playing at Texas A&M, he played baseball at a junior college. Moving away from his home brought out even more demons, as he was having suicidal thoughts. People in Gattis’s life saw the struggles he was going through, and he was admitted into a mental ward for his own protection. After this, he returned to Dallas and eventually moved to Colorado, working odd jobs for the next four years. Baseball was an afterthought for Gattis, because it had caused him so many troubles.
From an Article by Brian McTaggart;
"“To be honest with you, I don’t think about it too much,” Gattis said. “I know it’s changed me as a person. I just learned some life lessons and took some time off and figured some stuff out about myself. It definitely was a bad time. There’s been rough times. I don’t know how to quantify it. It’s definitely behind me.”"
Back to the Game he loved
In 2010, he found his love for baseball again, and joined the University of Texas-Permian Basin baseball team. This was through his step-brother, Drew Kendrick, and the head coach Brian Reinke who remembered watching Gattis play ball in High School. Reinke offered Gattis a spot on the team, and he ended up hitting .403 with 11 home runs in his first and last year in college ball. He was drafted in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft by the Atlanta Braves, even after being away from the game for four years.
What did he do in the minor leagues? He saw ball, hit ball. Here are his stats from him stints in the minors before his MLB debut in 2013.
Where did Gattis get his nickname “El Oso Blanco” from? He got that nickname after the 2012 season in Venezuelan Winter league, where he hit .303/ 16 home runs in 53 games. He became a fan favorite there, like he did in Atlanta. The fans gave him the nickname “El Oso Blanco,” which is Spanish for “the White Bear.”
Gattis hit a home run in his first major league game with the Braves in 2013, took over at catcher for an injured Brian McCann, and the rest is history.
After Trade to Astros
With the move to the Astros, his days of catching are likely behind him. He will probably play DH, left field, and first base with Houston. Jeff Luhnow had his sights on Gattis after the 2013 offseason, licking his chops with the thoughts of a premier right-handed hitter at Minute Maid Park. After an earlier trade fell through for Gattis, in which involved “B.J. Upton and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Contract”, the Astros finally got their man.
Astros fans have to be licking their chops thinking of the power potential with George Springer, Chris Carter, Gattis, and Jon Singleton, all capable of hitting 30-plus home runs. We have not seen the best from Jon Singleton, but all signs point to a rebound for Singleton. All signs are pointing to the Astros becoming better in 2015, and “El Oso Blanco” is the man to lead the Astros back into contention.
What is now known is that unlike others who struggle with addiction and depression, Gattis is happy with his life now. Some members are praising the trade for Gattis, while others are calling the trade a big mistake. Jeff Luhnow is happy with the trade, saying that you have to trade talent to get talent.
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Only time will tell who won the trade, but all I know is that “El Oso Blanco” will be hitting bombs into the “Bear Den,” a new nickname for the Crawford Boxes I proposed to Reid Ryan. Even though I didn’t get a response from Ryan, I’m sure many home runs will be hit by Gattis, whose preferred nickname is “Bulldog.”
I’m not as upset with Gattis’ comment about not being a Rangers fan anymore, since he grew up in Dallas. No one is perfect. He is a player that we can all get behind, no matter which team he grew up rooting for.
How many home runs do you think Evan Gattis will hit with the Astros in 2015?