Perspective after tragedy helps Mattlage on Draft day

Perspective after tragedy helps Mattlage on Draft day

Garrett Mattlage knows a little something about perspective.

The Tigers' 12th-round selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft is a native of West, Texas, the site of last April's fertilizer plant explosion.

Mattlage's best friend's father, a first responder on the scene, was one of the 15 fatalities.

The tennis court where Mattlage used to play with his mother, a stone's throw from where the plant stood, was "blown to bits," as Mattlage put it.

So, naturally, it was a little easier for Mattlage to keep his composure when his name wasn't announced on Day 2 of the Draft.

"[A tragedy like that] changes your attitude to what baseball really means," Mattlage said by phone Saturday. "It's just a game."

The Texas State shortstop had been projected to be selected in the first 10 rounds of the Draft, and his phone finally rang at the end of Day 2.

"You're at the top of the board, so be ready tomorrow," Mattlage said the Tigers told him.

Mattlage's home is just about five miles south of where the explosion occurred. The winds on the day of the blast were coming from the south, so the toxic fumes that were emitted missed his house.

He returned home to attend his friend's father's funeral shortly after the explosion, but it wasn't until the blast zone was re-opened and he ventured to see the destruction that the impact really set in.

The tennis courts he frequented were obliterated, and the school his mother teaches at suffered significant damage.

Not a day goes by that Mattlage doesn't think of his hometown and the loss his friend endured. But the perspective he gained from the tragedy made the Draft day wait far less excruciating.

Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.