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Gattis returned home to Dallas, where he lived with Jo, underwent further counseling and got a job as a janitor at a commercial cleaning company (his Twitter avatar now is a picture of his custodial ID badge) and then as a cart attendant at Firewheel Golf Park. Gattis also decided to dedicate himself to a spiritual quest, a grasp for those strands of personal understanding that had tantalized but eluded him in Boulder. He searched the Internet for people who had had similar experiences of awakening, and decided to travel the country seeking out the spiritual gurus he had discovered.
He flew to New York to see a teacher named Mooji who specializes in a Hindu philosophy that helps adherents find a sense of self through liberation from worldly concerns. He followed another guru, Jeannie Zandi, to Taos, N.M., where he landed a job at a ski resort so he could attend Zandi's retreats. "Here was Evan, 21 years old, tall and sturdy, with a passion you don't always see in folks that are exploring spiritually," Zandi said in an e-mail. She noted that Gattis had an impressive knowledge of spiritual teaching. Zandi called him Evan from Heaven.
After a few months in Taos, Gattis left for Santa Cruz, Calif., to attend a satsang, or spiritual assembly, led by a spiritualist named John Wheeler. Gattis was blown away by Wheeler's teachings, which center on the concept of nonduality, or a sense of oneness shared by all creation. "I started to get that [life] is just about what you are," he says. "Not about a way of behaving or feeling or thinking a certain way or stopping your mind [from having certain thoughts].
"[Wheeler] just cleared it up so fast. I was amazed down to the core. I really got the sense that this was not about something hidden or special or anything. It's more about just what you are."
Gattis says he expected his spiritual search to come to a less simplistic conclusion. But he was content with his newfound clarity. "It was the best letdown ever," he says, "because I knew [my search] was over."
As he was driving home from Santa Cruz to Dallas in the spring of 2009, Gattis remembered that a friend from a meditation meeting once said to him, "If you find what you're looking for, maybe you can go back and play ball." From the road Gattis called his stepbrother Drew Kendrick, who was a junior pitcher at Texas-Permian Basin, a Division II school in West Texas. The coach at UTPB, Brian Reinke, remembered that Gattis, now 22, had been a talented high school player; Reinke often jokingly told Kendrick that Gattis had a spot on the team if he ever wanted to return to baseball. Gattis was calling to take him up on the offer. "We made a handshake agreement," Reinke says. "He was going to work [hard] and I was going to make some calls [to professional scouts] for him."
One night Kendrick and Gattis were sitting in lawn chairs in Kendrick's driveway and talking about the season ahead. Gattis looked at his stepbrother and asked, "Why am I doing this?"
Kendrick replied, "Evan, it's your destiny, man." It took a while for Gattis to get into shape and to feel comfortable behind the plate, but it quickly became clear that he was born to hit. In an intrasquad game in the fall of 2009, Kendrick threw a fastball down and in that Gattis "hit forever," the pitcher recalls. "When I saw Evan rounding the bases, I saw that smile and you could see the joy back in his face again. I remember thinking to myself, I'll get over that home run. My brother's back playing baseball."
Gattis batted .403 with 19 doubles and 12 home runs in 58 games at UTPB. Before the 2010 draft he worked out for Gerald Turner, a longtime Texas area scout working for the Braves. Turner had scouted Gattis in high school and liked what he saw from the teenager. "I thought he had dropped off the face of the earth," says Turner.
Gattis smacked 20 home runs in that workout, and as the draft approached Turner pushed the Atlanta front office to take a chance on Gattis. "You've got a guy here with 70 raw power and a 60 throwing arm," Turner told his bosses, referring to the 20-to-80 scouting scale. "He's got two-plus tools. There are a lot of guys in the big leagues who don't have two-plus tools." Plus, Reinke had raved that Gattis had been a diligent worker and model citizen at UTPB. Turner told his scouting director, "This guy is low risk with high reward."