By LARRY LAGE
The Associated Press
DETROIT — Alex Avila was the best player available on the Detroit Tigers’ board when it was their turn to select a player in the fifth round of the 2008 amateur draft.
His dad suggested the Tigers pick someone else.
“I didn’t want people to think it was a favor,” Tigers general manager Al Avila recalled. “I thought he would have a better opportunity if someone else drafted him so he wouldn’t have to deal with the scrutiny of being my son.”
David Chadd, who is now the team’s assistant general manager and was its scouting director back then under general manager Dave Dombrowski, told Avila it would mark the first time the organization passed on the top player on the board that early in a draft.
“I said, ‘I’ll back down and back off,’” said Avila, an assistant GM back then. “We drafted him and he developed very quickly.”
The Avilas are one of the fortunate father-son duos in sports, striving to strike a balance between business and personal while regularly spending time around each other. Many aren’t able to always spend a Father’s Day with each other, and they treasure those times when schedules allow it.
The Avilas shared memories of those early days and the GM remembers taking his son out to dinner for a heart-to-heart talk in 2009.
“I gave him a strong message, saying, ‘You need to pick it up or you’re not getting to the big leagues anytime soon,’” he said as his son, sitting a few feet away in Detroit’s dugout, started to chuckle.
“A week later, I got called up,” he said with a grin.
“And he’s been in the big leagues ever since,” said his proud father.
Al and Alex Avila mutually agreed he should play elsewhere after his injury-riddled season in 2015, and he signed with the Chicago White Sox.
“I felt we could do better,” Al Avila said. “I don’t think we even talked about it.”
Nothing personal, kid.
“He’s got to make decisions based on what he thinks is best for the organization,” Alex Avila said nonchalantly. “I grew up in baseball so I understood.”
Alex Avila returned to Detroit this season. He was the top free agent available, his dad said. And the younger Avila is having his best season since 2011, when he was an All-Star.
Some other father-son duos shared their feelings with The Associated Press to mark Father’s Day today:
It is not easy following in the footsteps of a legend. Just ask Marco Andretti , who drives for his father, Michael, and lives in the shadow of his grandfather, Mario, one of the most beloved stars in motorsports.
“My relationship with dad is mostly business and that’s why we’re able to make it work most of the time,” Marco said. “It’s tricky, though, because I have teammates. Dad overcompensates the other way to make sure I’m not getting favoritism. Sometimes, I’m not a fan of that.”
Michael agreed, and said his son’s sentiments were accurate.
“I don’t show any favoritism on my team and I’m probably harder on Marco than the other guys,” he said. “It’s a little unfair for him.”
The 30-year-old Andretti, though, chose to be a driver after his dad sat him down for a talk a couple decades ago.
“When Marco started racing, he did it because he felt like he had to do it,” Michael said. “I said, ‘Just quit.’ Six months later, Marco said he wanted to race again. I told him he could if he promised to do it for himself, not for who he is, and to have fun. He did and it has been totally different. I tried to take some of the pressure off him that I felt with my father.”
Middle Tennessee State football coach Rick Stockstill and his son, Brent, had a little talk that turned out to be a big one following his last high school baseball game in 2013.
As a quarterback, he was headed to play at Cincinnati.
“I told him this is your dad speaking, not your coach,” Rick Stockstill recalled. “With your leadership, toughness and passion, you’re going to have a great career at Cincinnati.”
Brent Stockstill , though, didn’t want to leave his hometown or his father.
“I said, ‘Dad, all I ever want to do is play for you,’” he recalled. “We had never talked about it before because I had kept it bottled up. It’s a father-son moment I won’t forget.”
Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville got a call from Rick Stockstill, asking him to release his son from his letter of intent, and he did a couple days later.
“He said, ‘I would hope you would do the same for my son,’” Stockstill remembers Tuberville telling him. “And it has been a joy ever since that day.”
With two seasons of eligibility, Stockstill has school records with 61 touchdown passes, two 400-yard passing games, 14 300-yard passing games and 303.3 yards passing per game.
“I love that I get to see him every day after missing so much of his activities growing up because I was coaching someone else’s son or was recruiting someone else’s son,” his father said. “If you get an opportunity to coach your son, you’re crazy if you don’t do it.”