Evan Gattis is a World Series champion. His long journey to the acme of the Major League Baseball world has been one of the more unique stories. It may have never happened if it weren’t for his time with University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

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The Texas native grew up on baseball, surrounded by some of today’s greats playing for the Dallas Tigers, the premier amateur baseball team in Texas. Names like Corey Kluber and Clayton Kershaw were his teammates. Gattis was seemingly destined for big league stardom at an early age. He originally planned to attend Texas A&M, but life challenges got in his way. After years of wandering and soul searching, Gattis was ready to return to the sport he loved. 

His step-brother Drew Kendrick was pitching for UTPB in 2010. Kendrick could be the one credited with the rebirth of Gattis’ baseball career.

“I decided I was going to play again,” Gattis said via phone call. “I didn’t know if I had any eligibility left being a 23-year-old. Academically I was a junior, but baseball-wise, I was just a sophomore. Drew gave me a call and said, ‘this is where I am, I’m at UTPB and I love it here. Maybe you should meet coach and see if you can get an opportunity to come out’. It was the only school I talked to. I felt good about it. We met at a restaurant in Dallas, and it was a good situation.”

What was next, Gattis didn’t know. But he knew he was back in a familiar environment doing what he does best. Hitting baseballs a very long way.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Gattis said. “It had been so long since I had played. That was all icing on the cake. I was kind of in the, ‘why not go play college baseball?’ mode, because at least I go to college. You could do a lot worse than playing college baseball. My goal was to not quit that year, and just finish out my classes, do well in school, and finish the season. I started liking it, trying to get better, and then I got noticed by a couple of different teams.”

Texas-Permian Basin Athletics

A clean shaven Evan Gattis was a Heartland Conference First-Teamer in his lone season of DII baseball.

Gattis picked up right where he left off. He put together a First-Team All Heartland Conference season, hitting .403, tied for the lead with 19 doubles while raking 12 home runs. It was the monster power that those around him knew would get him drafted.

“He was older so I knew there would be organizations that would say no, but I also knew that his power was unmistakable and that someone would take the chance on him,” UTPB head coach Brian Reinke told NCAA.com before the MLB playoffs started. “Gerald Turner was the guy who took him in the 23rd round. He was with the Braves at that time and is now with the Blue Jays. Gerald came to watch him hit BP one day. Our park is big and the wind blows in every day from left field. Evan proceeded to hit 13 of 15 balls out of the park with wood. I knew then that he would be drafted that year. The rest was up to him.”

“I don’t know if those were the numbers, but we can go with that,” Gattis said with a laugh.

It would be Gattis’ only season in Odessa, Texas. Gerald Turner liked what he saw and the Atlanta Braves took him in the 23rd round of the MLB Draft.

“I’m in the kitchen, and we were watching the draft tracker,” Gattis recollected. “I thought I was going to go the next day in the way later rounds. Just out of the blue, my step-brother’s still watching the draft tracker and sees my name come up and you hear, ‘Evan!’ from the other side of the house. I was like, ‘What?!?’ My wife, she was my girlfriend at the time, but she was there, dad, step-mom, Drew and Brett my step-brothers, were there. Definitely a day that changed my life. I knew I could coach or give lessons and just the title of playing any kind of professional baseball, it just changed my life.”

Gattis built strong relationships during his time at UTPB. He and his former head coach are still very close.

“He was over at the house when he came to Game 5 of the World Series,” Gattis said of Reinke. “We had an off day the next day to travel to [Los Angeles]. He came and stayed that night and hung out at the house and talked baseball. That we stay in touch is an understatement. [Our relationship] has just kind of grown. When you’re younger it’s a player-coach relationship, but then afterwards, it just grew. I know a lot of people would say the same thing from that team because a lot of us stay together and stay in touch.”

At the beginning of the 2013 season, Atlanta Braves all-star catcher Brian McCann hit the disable list. Gattis got his first call to the big leagues. He hit a monster home run in his first game against the legendary Roy Halladay and wouldn’t relent. He won the National League Rookie of the Month in his first two months in the big leagues. In a matter of weeks, Gattis was an Atlanta icon.

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