Anyone who has caught a Braves game this season has likely heard the announcers telling the tale of the strange path Gattis took to reach the majors. The odd jobs he had and how he found his way back to baseball and, golly, it’s a swell story.
As Bob Nightengale reports in his profile of Gattis in USA Today, however, it was not some shaggy dog tale about a wandering soul finally finding his way back to the game:
“I was in a mental hospital,” he tells USA TODAY Sports. “I couldn’t sleep for an entire week, and I knew something was wrong with me. So I got admitted. I was so depressed, all I could think about was killing myself. I wanted to kill myself for a long time.” … Gattis was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety six years ago and, through medication, therapy and time, eventually discovered what he wanted out of life.
His story is an ongoing one. People with depression and anxiety can and often do battle it for their entire lifetime. And to successfully battle it, many require the sort of help Gattis got to aid his fight. Sadly, many people do not get it and wander off their path for years, sometimes never to return.
Gattis is a great story, and I don’t begrudge the visiting announcers for taking the chance to tell his tale. But there was much more behind it all than wanderlust and whimsy. Gattis’ comeback from where he was is far more impressive and beat far more odds than any of that would suggest.
Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.
While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.
Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.
I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.
On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.