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 may be – an All-Star.
Avila leads all major league catchers in slugging (.550), and ranks in the top five in homers (nine) and RBI (34). He’s also throwing out more than 40% of would-be basestealers, a stingy mark that leads AL backstops. As of June 12, Avila ranks second in All-Star voting among AL catchers behind the Yankees Russell Martin.
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 grandfathers best friends), the future looks bright for the young Tiger catcher.
Dan Holmes is an author and baseball historian. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and Major League Baseball. He once defeated George Brett in Texas Hold Em poker and faced Phil Niekro's knuckleball. He has two daughters and he writes regularly about baseball and many other topics.