Braves rookie catcher Evan Gattis takes in the scene during batting practice Sunday, March 31, 2013, at Turner Field in Atlanta.
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Gattis recalls being broke and hungry in New York

NEW YORK – The last time Evan Gattis was in New York, he stayed at a hostel, ran out of money, and ate from someone’s unfinished meal at an airport food court.

He returned this week as a bona fide celebrity, a Braves rookie who’s become one of the biggest stories in baseball with 10 home runs in 121 at-bats before Friday, including a grand slam Wednesday and three pinch-hit homers.

The guy who was once broke and hungry in New York, was a guest of honor Friday at the MLB Fan Cave on Broadway.

“That’s crazy, huh?” Gattis said, shaking his head.

He remembers plenty of details of his last trip to New York, which he said was around 2007. It was a year or two after he had quit playing college baseball, at some point between his months spent in Colorado working as a ski-lift operator and his stint as a janitor in Dallas. (Gattis was out of baseball for nearly four years.)

He had come to New York on one of his journeys in search of new-age spiritual enlightenment.

“I came here to see a guy, a spiritual teacher. Mooji,” he said. “I think his real name is Anthony (Paul Moo-Young), a Jamaican-born guy who lives in London now, or somewhere outside of London. I came and saw him. It was a three-day (seminar). I think I was here for, like, five days.

“I was here a while. I stayed at the Big Apple Hostel.”

Gattis said when he went to buy lunch at a hot dog stand, his debit card was declined.

“So I go to the ATM real quick and I look, and I have, like, negative 17 dollars,” he said. “And I’m like, holy (expletive), I’m broke, in New York City. I’m, like, 19 or 20. And I’m like, what am I going to do? I was just lost. So beaten. I was bawling. I was crying, dude. Trying sell, like, a bag of clothes. ‘Hey, you want a bag of clothes? Ten bucks, so I can get on a train to get to JFK.’”

Gattis said at one point, he sat with a homeless person playing guitar in the New York subway. “I was crying because I was so bummed about the money,” he said. “I was sitting right next to him, just bawling. And it was like, whatever happened, who cares? Like, no money, no problem.

“It was all good after that, for some reason. It’s weird.”

Gattis said a police officer let him ride the train to JFK to catch his flight home. He hadn’t eaten much for 24 hours when he got there, and Gattis said he asked some people for food, including an Irish traveler who gave him $10.

“So I’m standing in line at Burger King to get $10 work of burgers,” he said. “So I’m waiting in line, and I look and I’m about to miss my flight, man. But I’m starving, though. So I’m staying in that line.”

He said he barely made it on his flight, and was surprised when greeted by the same flight attendants who were on his flight from Dallas five days earlier. He’d been the last passenger on the flight from Dallas because the van his half-brother Chase was driving broke down on the way to the airport, and said a male flight attendant kidded with him about being late.

He was the last passenger to board in New York, too, and said the same flight attendant greeted him by joking, “You’re late again!”

“It was nuts, man. Same dude,” Gattis said. “Five days later. Dallas to New York, New York to Dallas. Same crew.”

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