Veteran catcher Avila to retire at end of year

September 19th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- “All good things must come to an end,” said with a shrug and a smile on Sunday. After 13 seasons in the Majors, the veteran catcher decided that this year would be his last.

Avila wants to enjoy retirement, spend more time with family and give his body a break from squatting for 100-plus days a year. But he doesn’t plan to stay away from the game long. He wouldn’t dream of it -- the sport is in his blood.

“I'll never not be involved in the game,” Avila said. “I'll do something within the game. I don't know what that is yet. You know, once the season's over and going in the next few months, so figure that out, see where it goes. But I'll be involved. I love the game way too much.” 

His father, Al Avila, is the general manager and executive vice president of the Tigers, with whom the catcher spent eight years of his career. Avila's godfather, former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, was a family friend of his grandfather, who was hired as a scout by the organization in 1970.

“I don't know what's going to happen as far as what I'm going to do,” Avila said. “I'm definitely going to be doing something. I'm kind of excited to see what opportunities might be out there. Whether that's with my dad or not. I'll just be happy to be able to continue being involved in something that's been a part of my life forever.”

Avila's kids, who are six and eight years old, don’t know a life where their dad isn't a Major League baseball player. Frankly, neither does Avila. He grew up surrounded by baseball and passed that on to his family. So, while his family is excited that Avila will be around more, they know he can’t stay away from the game long.

“I've known for quite a bit that he was going to retire,” manager Dave Martinez said. “It's kind of sad to see somebody like that leaving. But he's not going to walk away from the game. I'm sure he's going to be wanted by many, many teams in different roles. So he’s going to have an opportunity to stay in the game. That I know for a fact.”

Martinez and Avila crossed paths in 2017, when Avila was traded to the Cubs, for whom Martinez was a bench coach. The two were reunited for the catcher’s final season in 2021 when the Nats signed the catcher in the offseason. What’s impressed Washington’s skipper the most is Avila’s presence in the clubhouse. 

“He's constantly having conversations with everyone,” said Martinez. “He has a world of knowledge when it comes to baseball. He understands the game very well. He does things in the clubhouse. ... When you want someone amongst their own to speak to someone, besides Ryan Zimmerman, he's probably the one other guy I lean on to spread the message.” 

When Avila went on the IL for the second time this season on July 29, he knew his decision to retire was final. The injury didn’t push him so much as it frustrated him that he couldn’t spend every day on the field. So he did the next best thing. Avila started working with young catchers Tres Barrera, Riley Adams and Keibert Ruiz, sharing tips he’s learned over the years.

Avila has a lot of experience. He's played a role in six postseason runs, has made one All-Star appearance (2011) and has caught multiple future Hall of Fame pitchers -- including catching a majority of Max Scherzer’s 3,000 career strikeouts, both with the Tigers and Nationals.

However, when you ask Avila to try to pinpoint a moment that stands out over his 13 seasons in the Majors, he picked the one thing he didn’t do. 

“The one regret I do have is not being able to win a World Series with one of those Detroit teams,” Avila said. “I have so many great moments, but that's the one thing, I guess, on the negative side that I think about and wish we would have been able to do.”