Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tigers' new catcher Avila living a dream

        Alex Avila was 15 the first time he set foot in the Tigers’ clubhouse. His dad, Al, who had just been hired as the Tigers’ vice-president and assistant general manager, brought his kid to work.
        Young Alex knew then that he wanted to be a big league baseball player someday. “It’s always been my dream,” he said. But, in his wildest dreams he never imagined that day would arrive so soon.
        When Alex Avila, now 22 and a little more than a year removed from college, walked into the Tigers’ Comerica Park clubhouse late Wednesday afternoon, it was as a big league ballplayer.
        “It’s pretty unbelievable that the day is already here,” said Avila, who was summoned from Double-A Erie late Tuesday night to serve as the Tigers’ new back-up catcher. “The time has gone by so quickly. I always thought that one day  I’d play in the big leagues. But I never thought it would happen this fast.”
        The Tigers are hoping Avila, who was batting .264 with 12 home runs and 55 RBI at Erie, will occasionally add a little pop to the lower third of their batting order — something they didn’t get from either of Avila’s predecessors, Dusty Ryan (.160) and Dane Sardinha (.097).
        “I was shocked when I found out,” Avila admitted. “I was thinking I’d finish the season at Erie and hopefully get in the playoffs there.
        “I wasn’t even thinking about being called up in September. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to what was going on up here.”
        When Erie manager Tom Brookens, the former Tigers third baseman, called Avila into his office after the SeaWolves game Tuesday night to give him the news, the young catcher was speechless.
        “I couldn’t find the words, I didn’t know what to say,” Avila admitted. “I just sat there in his office. I couldn’t believe it.”
        Of course, Al Avila, being one of the Tigers’ top executives, knew about Tuesday night’s call-up before his son did. The elder Avila phoned his wife to give her the news and she, in turned, called Alex’s fiancĂ© Kristina.
        When Alex finally left the Erie ballpark Tuesday night, bursting with excitement, he couldn’t wait to tell Kristina, who was waiting for him in the parking lot.
        “Hey, we’ve got to get packed!” the grinning Alex shouted.
        “I’m already packed,” his fiancĂ© said, smiling.


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