This story is taken from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, Click here. And subscribe to receive it regularly in your inbox.
The voice with Dan Dickerson on radio for this week’s Tigers series at the Rays should be familiar, even though he’s new to the show. Alex Avila has embarked on a second career as a broadcaster this season after 13 years of catching at the Majors, eight of them with the Tigers.
This series will be his first work on games after a regular schedule of studio work with MLB Network. He spoke on Sunday about the Tigers’ transition and catch-up.
How did this opportunity come about, not just streaming but making Tigers games?
It wasn’t something I was looking for. I was approached by Ron Colangelo and Stan Fracker of the Tigers to possibly play a few games with Dan, and thought it would be a lot of fun. Dan was a little excited about this opportunity, as was I. I thought Dan was one of the best if not the best in the stand. I still remember when my dad joined the Tigers and we moved there, and we used to listen to Ernie [Harwell] on the radio. So I listened to matches on the radio, and when the match was also on TV, I listened to the radio. Once Dan took over I always thought he was amazing and always well prepared.
When you retired, were you looking for a new challenge?
When I decided to retire, there wasn’t anything I absolutely wanted to do. I knew I wanted to do something in baseball. I think if you asked me when I came on, I would say I wanted to stay on the pitch and try my hand at training and take those stepping stones to becoming a manager. But as I got older and my family grew, I was able to make the decision that once I took a step back, I wanted to spend more time with my family, but I also wanted to stay involved. . MLB Network, this opportunity came right away, and it was hard not to watch this and think that it can help me stay involved and talk about the game and be home with my family, but also to live a new experience, a new challenge. And I know a lot of guys who have made that transition. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and I really enjoyed it.
You’ve always been a good interview, but not necessarily candid. Was it an adjustment?
Over the course of my career, I have felt more comfortable expressing myself publicly. But at the same time, most of the advice I’ve received is to be yourself. There’s never been a lot of advice to do more. If you know what you’re talking about, it will come across as genuine. That’s the advice I’ve had so far. Speaking in front of the camera has never been difficult for me, but it’s obviously a little different being on the other side of the microphone and sometimes asking the questions.
What’s the biggest fit between studio work and game streaming?
Everything I did at MLB Network, we just reacted to games as we watched them. The other thing too is that on television people can see for themselves what is happening. So at the same time, I try to give perspective while staying away. Obviously, on radio, there’s a little more detail to trying to paint a picture for someone who doesn’t have a visual.
We’ve always heard that receivers make great managers and coaches because they’re involved in all aspects of the game, but are there any ways it helps you behind the microphone?
I think there are a lot of attributes that apply to not only being on the pitch as a manager or a coach, but also helping the fans understand what’s going on and giving perspective . As a catcher, you not only have to hit, but also help the pitchers. You deal with all the personalities of the team and you have to deal with all aspects of the game itself. Ever since I got into the media world, I hear that everyone loves Seekers because of that aspect as well.
How well have you followed the Tigers and how will it feel to catch up in person?
I watched most of their games all year. Our family has given so much time, blood, sweat and tears to the Tigers and this organization. The Tigers will always be my team. I watched the games most of the time and I’m still in touch with some guys and obviously I talk to my dad a bit. But it will be fun to go there and see some guys and get into the clubhouse.
You were part of an influx of young players when you came here. When you look at this team, do you see any similarities to anything you’ve been through?
Well, it’s largely the same things that most young players go through at times when they first get the chance. When I arrived in 2009, the only recruits were me and [Rick] Porcine. But obviously in 2010 after the [Curtis] Granderson trade, Austin Jackson was there and [Max] Scherzer was there, so a few of us were looking for our place.
A lot of young guys go through the same thing, like 98% of young players will go through. It’s a matter of keeping perspective and understanding that there is a process to this. Once you get to a point where you’re in the big leagues, you’re never that far off. You may feel like you’ll never get a hit or, as a pitcher, you’ll never get an out, but you’re never that far. It might be difficult for a young player to have that perspective, but it’s something I wish I had at this stage of my career.
How does it feel to watch Miguel Cabrera rack up those milestones, having been there as a lot of hits and home runs piled up?
It’s quite incredible. When I’ve watched the games and I see him get a hit or a home run and he goes up a list, it’s like nostalgia, the times we played together, the teams that we played and memories. It’s like reliving those moments.
We’ve all expected that one day you’ll see history unfold before you, but once it does, there’s no way to prepare for it. What’s mind-boggling is when you think about how long it’s been since someone was able to do something like this. When will this happen next? When you talk about him and the stuff he put together, you’re talking about guys who played decades and decades ago. He is the person in our lives who represents that kind of greatness.
You played with Miguel Cabrera at the start of your career, and Juan Soto at the end. Do you think of the greatness you saw in bookends?
He’s sort of the next guy people talk about in that aspect. When people asked me about Juan, I said he was just as good and talented as Miguel, and maybe better in some ways. For him, it’s all about staying healthy. He has all the talent to write history. It will be fun to watch his career unfold.