Al Avila (MS, ’86), an alumnus of the renowned St. Thomas University Sports Administration program and a former Head Baseball Coach/Director of Athletics for the Bobcats, was named the General Manager of the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 4 making him the first Cuban-born GM in Major League Baseball.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity, and honored and grateful to Mr. Ilitch (Tigers team owner Mike Ilitch) for having the faith and trust in me to run the ballclub in our continuing pursuit of a World Series championship,” Avila said in the statement. “After 24 years in professional baseball and 14 with the Detroit Tigers, I believe I’m uniquely qualified to be successful in this role in leading this organization. We’re confident we can make a strong push to win this year, and that we have the foundation in place to win next year and for years to come.”
After earning his Master’s in Sports Administration from St. Thomas, Avila served as Director of Athletics and Head Baseball Coach for the Bobcats from 1988-92. Under Avila’s leadership, the Bobcats won the Florida Sun Conference Championship in back-to-back years (1991-92) and were ranked as high as number three in the national NAIA Coaches Poll. In 1991, Avila was named the Florida Sun Conference Coach of the Year. While at STU, Avila also coached the STU Cross Country and Tennis teams.
Avila moved on from St. Thomas to become the Assistant Director of Latin American Operations for the Florida Marlins in June, 1992, then was elevated to Director of Latin American Operations in 1994. In 1998, he was named Director of Scouting for the Marlins with the responsibility for all of the Marlins scouting efforts on both the national and international levels. In 2001, he became Vice President and Assistant General Manager for the Marlins and spent much of the year as Interim GM for the Marlins.
Following his nine seasons with the Marlins and a short stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Avila was named Vice President and Assistant General Manager for the Detroit Tigers on April 15, 2002, a position he held until his historic appointment as General Manager last month.
Active in the community both during his time in South Florida and Detroit, Avila currently serves on the board of directors of Think Detroit PAL, a non-profit organization in partnership with community volunteers and the Detroit Police Department to help build character in young people through athletic, academic and leadership programs.