ESSAY: The search for Evan Gattis, and the journey of journalism — Part 2

In May 2013 I was assigned to tell the story of Atlanta Braves’ slugger Evan Gattis. It took me on a two-day journey across the state of Texas.

This is Part 2 of the story of that journey. To read Part 1, CLICK HERE. To read the entire story on a single page, CLICK HERE.


“I’d like to book a room for the night.”

Several hours after interviewing Hernandez and Turner, I was back at the Coppell West field, trying to make a hotel reservation from the driver’s seat of my rented Chevy Sonic. I had already driven for nearly two hours that afternoon, making stops at the aforementioned mechanics shop and golf course before popping back to the field to get footage of Tigers practice. Now I was preparing for the big drive: five hours from Dallas to Odessa, Texas, where Gattis returned to baseball after his time away from the game.

At least, I thought I was heading to Odessa.

But when I made my request to the operator at the hotel, she responded as follows:

“All right, sir. A room with one king-size bed is $309 a night.”

I quickly checked the number to make sure I hadn’t accidentally dialed the Holiday Inn in midtown Manhattan.

Nope, this was Odessa.

“What was that number again?” I asked.

“Three-oh-nine,” the operator responded, with genuine cheer that indicated she perhaps was not aware of why anyone would be surprised by this.

Hernandez was not surprised. “Yeah, Odessa is big with oil guys. You can’t get a hotel room there for less than $300 a night.”

I had to re-route. Unfortunately, the nearest city on my way to Odessa was Abilene, which sported a variety of two-star hotels off Interstate-20 but would also leave me 2 ½ hours from Odessa.

I did the mental math in my head. Suddenly I was facing a potential nine hours of driving the next day – on top of the three hours ahead of me on this day.

What could I do? I rolled with it.