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Astros 40 in 40: Evan Gattis, catcher, bear man

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El Oso Blanco will not be stopped. The hunt continues.

The bear waited.

Stinging cold buffeted its thick fur. The wind whipped over the bare sea ice at a cool 10 mph. It tumbled around the bear, ruffling that white fur. It rustled through groups of tiny ice crystals that collected there, swirling some away into the air. Bear-made snowflakes.

Still, the bear waited.

It ignored the cold. That thick layer of adipose blocked it out, though the bear had a little less fat around its middle after the winter. It had never stepped on a scale, but felt nearly 18 pounds lighter than during the previous spring.

Hunting hadn't been good. Too many misses, not enough contact with prey. It had tripled up on kills more last summer than normal, but even that hadn't been enough to stave off the war. A decline in value for its hunts spelled doom on these harsh, icy plains.

The bear did not think any of this. It waited.

A new season loomed. Already, the temperatures were warming. The nights grew shorter. Summer would be here in the blink of an eye.

The bear didn't blink. It waited.

It waited by a hole in the ice on the off-chance its prey might surface for a breath. One wrong move and those powerful paws would reach out and flick it over the "fence," or the area just outside the hole in the ice. If it did this 30 or 35 times over the summer, it might make it through the next winter. If not, it would have to find new territory. That's how the war works. Make contact, finish the job and be of value.

Things flitted through the hole in the ice. Flakes of snow and ice fell through it. Birds flittered around the edges. Fish nibbled at the surface.

The bear ignored all this. It took the hit, risked striking out looking for its prey. One of those 30 successful hunts was worth it.

Some unsuspecting seal would forget about the danger. It would pop through the zone, not fast enough to escape and not bendy enough to escape those giant paws. The bear knew what to do then. It would pounce with striking ferocity.

It might then throw some sugar treats shaped like its southerly cousins into its great maw, as a way to celebrate. Success didn't come very often.

That's why the white bear waits. He waits for that one perfect time, when he can shine, putting his unique set of skills on complete display. When he can complete the hunt. When he can obliterate his prey.

Until then, his laser-like focus remained on that hole in the ice. It remained on the future, waiting for that magical season. Waiting for the next home run.