“I went through that back-and-forth in my head, as far as if I wanted to play for another year,” Alex Avila told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, in announcing his plan to retire at the end of the 2021 campaign.
“But I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while, even since last year,” the 34-year-old, 13-year veteran said on Sunday afternoon in a scrum in the Washington Nationals’ dugout, “... and just came to the conclusion, after debating it with myself and my wife that this was the right time.”
“When I talk to guys that say that this is going to be their last year, I always ask them, one, ‘Are you really sure?’” Davey Martinez said, after the Nationals’ skipper confirmed that he’s know for a while now that Avila made this decision.
“‘Can you walk away from the game knowing that come January, everybody is getting ready and you’re going to sit at home and do nothing?’” Martinez said he asks. “And kind of, I say, ‘Are you ready for that? Are you ready for taking your kids to school every day? Or whatever it is that you’re going to be doing?’ And when he looked at me and said, “Yeah, I’m ready,’ then you know.”
“It took me a while to do that,” the fourth-year skipper said, talking about the end of his own 16-year career as a player. “I kept saying I was going to retire, and then all of a sudden the winter came by and I got a new contract, and I couldn’t pull the trigger, I still liked playing. So, but when you know it’s your time, you know, and when it’s time for you to walk away, you walk away, and what a career. Let’s talk about his career.”
“A lot of playoff games, World Series games, this guy has done it,” Martinez continued.
“He’s done a lot in his career, [but] I got him for two more weeks, I’m going to enjoy having him around for a couple weeks. We’ll spend some time together, some more time together, and then he’s off to do something else.”
Avila played in the postseason with Detroit in 2011, 2012 (when they went to the World Series and lost), 2013, and 2014, in 2017 with the Chicago Cubs (an NLCS loss), and in 2020 with the Minnesota Twins (Wild Card loss), and he said his only regret in his career is that he did not win a World Series with the Tigers during that run of success.
“I think all of us on those teams, that’s our one regret, not being able to do that,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Zuckerman.
“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’ve been able to do.”
Avila signed a 1-year/$1.5M deal with the Nationals this past winter, and through 29 games and 99 plate appearances this season heading into Sunday’s game, he was sitting at 14 for 78 (.179/.347/.333) with seven doubles, a triple, and a home run. He missed significant time on the Injured List with bilateral calf strains, and ended up on the COVID-IL twice, so his final season hasn’t been what he or the Nats hoped, but that hasn’t diminished the fact that he has made an impact in his time with the team.
“It’s his veteran presence, one, two is his conversations with not only younger guys, but the older guys as well,” Martinez said.
“If you see him, he’s constantly having conversations with everyone, and like I said, he’s a world of knowledge when it comes to baseball. He understands the game very well.
“He does things in that clubhouse before I can go out and talk to players as I always say, but when you want someone amongst their own to speak to someone, besides Ryan Zimmerman, he’s probably the guy, [Avila is] another guy that I lean to to go and spread the message and he’s really good at it.”
A lifetime spent in baseball has helped Avila know the game, and how to conduct oneself as a professional.
“His background is unbelievable going back to his grandfather [Frank Avila, “who started and operated the Dodgers’ academy in the Dominican Republic,”] his dad, [Al Avila, who is currently the general manager and executive vice president of baseball operations for the Detroit Tigers], him, I mean, a world of knowledge in that family of baseball.
“But what a great person. When he told me — I’ve known for quite a bit — that he was going to retire — 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, I know that for a fact.”
“I still have him here for a couple weeks,” Martinez reiterated.
“So we’ll enjoy the time together, and hopefully when he does decided what he wants to do, maybe down the road we’ll have a spot for him here in this organization, because he does know the game very well.”