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Tierney McAfee
November 02, 2017 01:41 PM

Astros catcher Evan Gattis’ path to World Series champion was paved with pain — including battles with homelessness, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.

But in the end, it was all worth it.

“It’s what you dream about as a kid, you come this far, let’s just win the thing,” Gattis recently enthused to ABC13 as the Houston Astros advanced to this year’s World Series before ultimately going on to win baseball’s biggest championship.

At one point considered one of the top catchers in high school baseball, the Astros’ designated hitter long seemed destined for the major leagues. Gattis earned a position as catcher for the Texas A&M Aggies after high school, but his journey was sidetracked when, crippled by anxiety and substance abuse, he ended up checking into a drug and alcohol rehab clinic instead.

His father, Jo Gattis, now recalls to ABC13 how his son “looked me in the eye and he said, ‘I don’t want to talk baseball anymore, I’m done.’ ”

After that, the seemingly lost Gattis roamed the U.S., holding jobs as a parking valet in Dallas and a ski lift operator in Colorado before finding himself broke and forced to beg for food in New York City. Eventually, Gattis drove to California in the hopes of finding a spiritual adviser — and himself.

“Whatever it was he was looking for, he got it,” said his stepbrother Drew Kendrick. “We don’t really pry into it, he got what he was looking for.”

On his way back from California, Gattis got in touch with his stepbrother, then a pitcher at the University of Texas-Permian Basin.

“He called me one day on his way home and said ‘I’m ready to play again,’ and that was all I ever needed to hear,” said Kendrick.

Unlike some baseball players who leave the sport and try — but fail — to make a comeback, Gattis quickly proved he still had what it took.

“We’ve seen other athletes that have been out of baseball and try to come back and a lot of times it doesn’t work,” said Brian Reinke, Gattis’ former baseball coach at UT-Permian Basin. “I mean, this was the right place at the right time for Evan Gattis.”

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After a stint in the minor leagues, it wasn’t long before Gattis was drafted in 2010 to the Atlanta Braves. As a catcher for the Braves in 2013, Gattis told USA Today about how he nearly ended his life in the summer of 2007.

“I was in a mental hospital,” he said at the time, explaining how he had been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. “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. I wanted to kill myself for a long time.”

“It was anger and depression,” not substance abuse, that were at the heart of Gattis’ issues, his father told USA Today. After conquering his demons during his “spiritual quest” in California, Jo Gattis says that when his son “got to the end of the road, and there was nothing more to look for, he turned back to baseball.”

After being traded to the Astros in 2015, Gattis is now right where he belongs, his father says.

“This is his job,” Jo Gattis says. “He goes and does his job, goes home, cooks some ribs with everyone, drink a beer or two, it’s good.”

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