31-year-old Astros catcher who won his first World Series had a wild journey that included a rehab stint and working as a janitor and ski lift operator

    Perhaps no Houston Astros player has a more inspirational story than Evan Gattis. Gattis struggled with addiction, depression, and anxiety when he was younger, twice dropping out of school and quitting baseball. He traveled around the country, working as a valet, a janitor, ski-lift operator, and more while figuring out what he wanted to do. Eventually, Gattis was inspired to return to baseball, where he quickly rose through the ranks.

The Houston Astros won the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, completing one of baseball’s most feel-good stories.

Perhaps no Astros player encapsulates the team’s long journey to winning the World Series better than backup catcher and pinch hitter Evan Gattis.

Gattis didn’t play a huge role in the World Series, though he played well overall in the postseason, batting .254 with a .354 OBP while hitting one home run and five RBIs.

But the journey Gattis took the majors is reason to be happy for him alone. As outlined in 2013 by MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Gattis was one of the top high school prospects in the country in 2004 and was supposed to play at Texas A&M. However, Gattis began abusing alcohol and marijuana his senior year of high school and never showed up to Texas A&M. Instead, he checked into a rehab facility in Canton, Texas, for 30 days, and then spent three months in a halfway house in Arizona.

From there, Gattis gave baseball another shot at Oklahoma Seminole Junior College, but dropped out while struggling with a knee injury and a lack of interest.

During this time, Gattis also battled anxiety and depression, which his parents have said they believe stemmed from their divorce when Gattis was young. Gattis told Nightengale that he often had suicidal thoughts.

After dropping out of school, Gattis went on a rambling journey, hopping around the country doing odd jobs. He worked as a parking valet in Texas – “Drove some pretty sweet cars,” he told Castrovince – worked a ski-lift operator in Colorado, then traveled back to Texas where he got a job as janitor with his brother at a meter-reading company. His ID to get into the building is his Twitter avatar.

Gattis left the janitor job and began working at a golf club as a cart boy.

“Some guy didn’t show up one day, so I kind of fell into that job,” Gattis told Castrovince.

While working at the golf course, he went back to school to pursue his associate’s degree and became interested in philosophy and religion and decided to move to a youth hostel in Colorado. He worked at the hostel, cleaning the building, and got another job at a ski lift. He told Castrovince that he had to hitchhike to the ski lift because he lost his car keys in the snow and didn’t find them until the snow melted.

Gattis hopped around some more before he ended up in Santa Cruz, California, where he met a spiritual teacher named John Wheeler. Something in their conversation convinced Gattis to return to baseball.

Gattis enrolled at University of Texas-Permian Basin in 2010 and played on the baseball team. He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft. He spent two years in single-A and double-A, blasting home runs and making a name for himself with his power before he finally made the Braves’ regular roster in 2013. According to Nigthengale, Gattis wept when the Braves told him he’d made their roster.

He became a breakout star with the Braves for his power, hitting 43 home runs over two injury-riddled seasons. In 2015, the Astros swung a five-player deal to acquire Gattis and his powerful bat.

The sports world was delighted for Gattis on Wednesday as he appeared emotional when the Astros won.

Gattis told Nightengale in 2013: “It was a long road, and a lot of twists and turns. But I can say I have never been happier in my whole life.” Gattis might have topped that happiness on Wednesday.