White Sox Avila makes 1st return to Detroit

Chicago catcher grew up around Tigers organization, played previous 7 years there

White Sox Avila makes 1st return to Detroit

DETROIT -- Alex Avila got to return home, literally. The White Sox catcher pulled up to his house in nearby Birmingham, Mich., where he stayed for the last part of his Tigers tenure, and paid a visit during the team's off-day in town on Thursday.

He did not get to sleep in his own bed. His old teammate, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, is renting the place from him for the season.

"I had to go by to pick up a baby crib for one of my kids," Avila said.

He then stopped by his parents' home, where he saw his mom and dropped off the children. His father, Tigers general manager Al Avila, wasn't in.

Players change teams and see their old clubs all the time. For Avila, of course, the ties run deeper. He grew up around the Tigers' organization, first as a kid, then as a player. He spent the first seven seasons of his Major League career being able to see his family every day and became an integral part of the family atmosphere in the Tigers' clubhouse.

He prepared himself last year for breaking ties, knowing James McCann was the Tigers' catcher of the future. Once he signed within the division, inking a one-year deal with the White Sox last winter, he knew he'd be renewing acquaintances at least a few times.

He walked down the tunnel toward the Tigers' clubhouse Friday afternoon, then turned right toward the visiting clubhouse, which he had never stepped into.

"I definitely have a little nerves for sure, a little anxiousness," Avila said. "It'll be different coming out of that side, out of the visiting dugout. There's a lot of memories the past six, seven years, but once the pitcher gets set and I get in there, it's baseball, and you have to try to do what you can to beat them.

"... A lot of it, people will be looking at coming in and playing the Tigers. We were looking forward to seeing each other. I haven't seen my dad yet, but he's seen my kids. He hadn't seen them since before Spring Training. He'd been dying to see them. I went over to my parents' house, saw my mom. It was a good off-day yesterday for us, and it'll be fun this weekend to see everybody."

At least one former teammate was already looking forward to it. Avila caught Justin Verlander 116 times over seven seasons. The trash talk about potentially facing him in Sunday's series finale began before he walked into the park.

"He already told me he was going to hit me if I end up playing on Sunday," Avila said. "We'll see. I said, 'Well, if you hit me, I'm going to steal off of you, my first stolen base this year.'"

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.