In the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft, the Detroit Tigers selected a catcher from the University of Alabama with their pick in the 5th round. That news wasn’t all that noteworthy, but the catcher sure is.
The catcher was Alex Avila, the son of Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila, a close friend of GM Dave Dombrowski from their days together with the Florida Marlins. More than a few people criticized the Tigers for taking Avila in what they claimed was an act of nepotism. But now just three years later, with Alex enjoying a breakout season, the draft selection proves that father knew best.
24-year old Avila is in his second full season with Detroit, and where in the past he’s struggled at times with the bat and behind the plate, in 2011 he’s showing the maturity of a star. And that’s just what he is – an All-Star.
Just three seasons after being drafted, Avila was elected to start the 82nd All-Star Game. Avila is the first Tiger to be selected to start an All-Star Game since Pudge Rodriguez in 2007. It’s the first All-Star nod for Avila at any level of professional ball, and quite amazing considering how far he’s come since being drafted out of Alabama.
Avila leads all major league catchers in slugging, and ranks in the top five in homers and RBI. He’s also throwing out more than 40% of would-be basestealers, a stingy mark that leads AL backstops. Thanks to a Twitter campaign galvanized by Justin Verlander and Brad Penny, among others, Avila overtook Yankee Russell Martin in voting to earn the well-deserved spot on the All-Star team. Tiger fans did their part to help Avila to top the voting at his position.
“It’s amazing how the fans in Detroit support us,” said Verlander, who made his third straight All-Star trip and fourth overall. Teammates Jose Valverde and Miguel Cabrera were also selected to the team. Victor Martinez was within reach of joining his teammates in Arizona as well.
Avila converted to the catching spot in his second season with the Crimson Tide and he’s never looked back or given up. Even when his selection by his father was scrutinized by some.
With his Dad in the front office and a long line of baseball blood running through his veins (his middle name of Thomas is in honor of Tommy Lasorda, one of Alex’s grandfather’s best friends) the future looks bright for the young Tiger catcher.