Seated on a crowded cafe patio, with his pinging phone providing a steady backbeat, the 46-year-old Evans reflected on a career and lifelong love of baseball that began as a Peanut League catcher in Framingham, Massachusetts, where the Red Sox were his favorite team and Carlton Fisk was his favorite player.
Then his fathers job with the US Public Health Service was transferred to a town of 700 in North Carolina, and by the time Evans was a high school senior, it was apparent he wouldnt be big or strong enough to catch on the collegiate level. After receiving an academic scholarship to the University of North Carolina, he tried to walk on as a 160-pound outfielder.
UNCs coach at the time, Mike Roberts, had to be honest. Youre just too average in every tool, he told him.
Evans found a way to play all four years in college anyway, first for a semipro summer league team in Daytona Beach, Florida, and then for UNCs club team.
There was only one club player I knew of, a pitcher, who got called up to varsity, Evans said.
It was all the hope he needed.
But the varsity never called, and Evans knew it was time to focus on his business degree. A scholarship program at UNC paid for his summer expenses to intern with a business enterprise after his sophomore year, and Evans scanned the list of Fortune 500 companies — banks, pharmaceutical giants, insurance agencies. He didnt pick any of them. Instead, he went to the executive director with a question.
Can I set up my own internship? he said. Because Id like to work for the Boston Red Sox.
The director had an upcoming business trip to Boston, and promised Evans he would contact the club while he was in town to explain the scholarship program. A few months later, Evans found himself living a dream. The Red Sox let him operate the scoreboard in the Green Monster. He joined the grounds crew. He was in the draft room when the Red Sox selected Jeff Bagwell and Mo Vaughn.
Quite frankly, I didnt know how anything worked outside the lines, Evans said. I was learning things about the baseball side that I had no idea about. I really couldnt get baseball off my mind.
As graduation approached, Evans had an offer to work in the media relations office for the NBAs Charlotte Hornets. He held out for something better. He called every major league team, and some minor league clubs. When he reached out to the American League office, he learned about an executive development program through Major League Baseball.
Two interviews later, Evans, at 22, found himself living in Manhattan and walking to MLBs Park Avenue headquarters to work each day. He spent almost three years working in the league office, doing everything from reviewing minor league facilities to writing a handbook to educate players about HIV/AIDS to attending ownership meetings — including one memorable occasion when Angels owner Gene Autry got up and began singing a couple of his standards.
In September 1992, he went to help with the fledgling Arizona Fall League and became friendly with the manager of the Scottsdale club. Evans recalls the day that Giants GM Bob Quinn flew into town, and he opened the door to the clubhouse for him. Quinn was there to interview Dusty Baker, who would become the Giants manager.
I guess it was ironic or serendipitous, Evans said. I followed the Giants the whole way in 1993. Id stay up late in Manhattan watching their games. I kind of felt I was a little part of it, because Id gotten to know Dusty so well.
Working in the commissioners office, Evans had a view into how teams worked. He could tell the Giants were well run. A new ownership group had taken over, they had just won 103 games and there was the promise of a new ballpark. Evans had conversations with the Mets, Royals and Astros, but he hoped for an opportunity with the Giants. Suddenly, they were hiring. And their assistant GM, Brian Sabean, was conducting interviews at the winter meetings.
He was very eager, obviously an intelligent kid, he had the intern experience in Boston and the commissioners office, and quite frankly, he was single and wide-eyed and willing to put the hours in, Sabean said. Thats half the battle. You have to be willing to punch the clock, and put up with the demands.
Sabean called and offered Evans a position as a minor league administrative assistant.
I was going to take it, but I wanted to call my folks, talk it over, Evans said. Before I could hang up, he said, Well, are you going to take it? He wanted an answer. So I said yes. Two weeks later, I sublet my apartment in New York and flew out to San Francisco and stayed at the Hyatt the day after my 25th birthday, and drove to Candlestick for the first time.
More than two decades later, after constant tutoring from people such as Sabean and Jack Hiatt and Dick Tidrow and Tony Siegle and Ned Colletti, Evans is the chief custodian of a three-time World Series champion. He tried not to act surprised when told at the end of spring training that he would be elevated to the post, and that Sabean would move to an executive vice president role, freeing him from the daily demands to focus on big-picture scouting and player development initiatives.
The titles have always been an afterthought, Evans said with a laugh. When Brian named me assistant GM a few years ago, Id been assistant GM for seven years.
Still, this title meant more. Evans wishes he could share it with his late parents. He is grateful he can share his success with his three siblings, including his oldest sister, Lu, who is fighting bone and breast cancer.
And then there is his wife, Gwen.
They met at a Baptist church in San Francisco on his 27th birthday. They chatted briefly after a service, and that night, Evans returned to find 40 friends packed into his apartment for a surprise party.
Someone had invited her, Evans said. When I opened the door, she was the first person I saw. We ended up talking quite a bit that day. I knew the kind of person I wanted to marry, and I just sensed there was something special about her.
Evans was a church leader and didnt want to make any inappropriate advances. After a year of casual hellos, though, Gwen began to suspect he might have interest.
So when I asked her out, she was already ready, Evans said. She said no.
But she was happy to remain friends and participate in group activities with him. Evans would brainstorm all manner of outings and events. He found out she liked basketball and was a Michael Jordan fan, but his Giants connections were no good when he asked for 10 tickets to a Warriors-Bulls game.
So I bought 10 miniseason passes so I could take her to that one game, he said, and I spent the entire winter selling Warriors tickets to all my friends.
It took two years, but Gwen finally said yes to a first date. And 10 months later, she said yes to a marriage proposal. Evans even won over her father, who moved the family to the US from Rajahmundry, India, when Gwen was a young girl.
I felt comfortable he would appreciate a little humor, Evans said. So I told him, I know you always wanted to arrange Gwens marriage. So I just want you to know Id be happy if youd arrange our marriage.
And so he laughed and he said, You know, I learned its more important that God arrange it. So you have my blessing.
As any baseball GM knows, there is an art to closing the deal.
For more on the Giants, see the Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants. Follow Andrew Baggarly on Twitter at twitter.com/extrabaggs.