- Associated Press - Friday, February 22, 2013

KISSIMMEE, FLA. (AP) - Spring training is all about those on the fringes.

The phenoms looking to make their mark. The geezers trying desperately to hang on. The never-heard-ofs attempting to pull off the camp of their lives. For some reason, that warm Florida sun (Arizona sun works, too) makes all things seem possible.

Then there’s Evan Gattis, who is so compelling that everyone else pales in comparison.

“This is my story,” the 26-year-old says nonchalantly, sitting at his locker in the Atlanta Braves clubhouse. “Hey, it’s the only one I’ve got.”

He walked away from the game not long after high school, absolutely terrified of being a failure and figuring there must be something better out there. There were bouts with depression and drugs, a series of menial jobs ranging from valet to janitor to cart boy at a golf course. He traveled throughout the West, seeking out wandering souls such as himself and spiritual advisers who could help make sense of it all.

Finally, something clicked.

Baseball, the sport he once fled from, was what he needed all along.

“I mean, this is a pastime,” Gattis says, a sense of wonderment in his voice. “Honestly, what would you rather be doing right now than this? You know what I mean? I hate to say it like, `Oh, there’s nothing better to do.’ But, really, there is nothing … better … to do,” drawing out the words for effect.

In a way, he’s come to the right place. The Braves conduct spring training on the sprawling grounds of Walt Disney World, just down the road from the Magic Kingdom, a place that turned make believe into a very profitable business.

Now we have a player who uses the ID tag from his days as a janitor as the avatar on his Twitter account trying to make it to the big leagues.

Sure, he’s a longshot. But ol’ Walt would’ve loved this tale.

“It’s kind of a bummer that I never even gave myself a chance to fail before,” Gattis says. “Now, I’m not really afraid to fail.”

He pauses for a bit of a course correction, then carries on.

“Sure, everybody is afraid of failure a little bit. But I’m not going to let it keep me from success.”

Gattis was initially offered a scholarship to play baseball at Texas A&M. He never made it.

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