Ralph Avila, the Cuban expatriate who crafted the Dodgers’ abundant pipeline of Caribbean baseball skill and signed Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, passed away Monday at his house in Florida. He was 92.
Avila, the dad of previous Tigers executive vice president and basic supervisor Al Avila and grandpa of All-Star catcher Alex Avila, invested 55 years with the Dodgers, starting in 1966. He ended up being a scout in Latin America for basic supervisor Al Campanis in 1970. In 1986, Avila assisted with the preparation of the Dodgers’ academy in the Dominican Republic and was called vice president of the center in 1991, serving because position up until his retirement in 1999. He continued in an advisory function up until 2021.
Including Martinez, Avila was associated with the finalizing of more than 50 future Major Leaguers, consisting of Pedro’s older sibling, Ramon, and most likely Hall of Famer Adrián Beltré, in addition to Raul Mondesi, Rick Rhoden, Mariano Duncan, Juan Guzman and Alejandro Pena.
Pedro Martinez provided Avila a substantial shoutout throughout his Cooperstown induction speech in 2015.
“Right away I have to thank Avila, Rafael Avila, the man with the biggest history as far as ballplayers coming out of the Dominican Republic,” stated Martinez. “Just if you didn’t know, that’s Rafael Avila over here, my first mentor and my papaito that signed more than 50 players that have made it to the big leagues. Rafael Avila, an icon of Latin America, and a symbol of baseball in the Dominican Republic.”
Avila, under Campanis’ instructions, is credited, together with fellow Latin American scout Epy Guerrero, with coming from the advancement of training centers and baseball leagues in the Caribbean. Specifically, Avila was the force driving the trailblazing building and construction of Campo Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic, the very first of its kind when Avila, Campanis and owner Peter O’Malley opened it in 1987.
When existing Dodgers ownership group Guggenheim Baseball invested $8 million to refurbish the complex in 2017, president and CEO Stan Kasten called Avila “the Godfather of all this,” since “he literally found the land, cleared the sugar cane, planted the trees and dragged the infield in the camp’s early days.”
“I’m very happy,” Avila stated at the devotion of the upgraded center. “We have had players from 27 different countries train here, learning the Dodger way. It’s amazing to see how it has grown and the impact Campo Las Palmas has made on the game.”
Now 70 acres with 100,000 square feet of indoor area, each structure on the website is called after leaders of the Dodgers and baseball in Latin America, from Walter O’Malley Headquarters and Avila Command Post to Jackie Robinson Hall and Roy Campanella Clubhouse, from Tom Lasorda Dining Hall to the class called after Dodgers Hall of Fame Spanish language broadcaster Jaime Jarrín.
Avila was the very first recipient of the International Scout of the Year Award in 2006 and has actually been bestowed inductions into the Republica Dominicana (1996), Latin America and International Sports (2003) and Cuba Sports of Miami (2003) Halls of Fame. He was likewise knighted in the Dominican Republic and got that nation’s Founding Fathers Award for Excellence.
Born in Camaguey, Cuba, in 1930, Avila played semipro ball there. A political activist, he outlined versus totalitarian Fulgencio Batista and was lined up, then at chances, with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Avila left his homeland for Miami since of the Castro transformation and took part in the unfortunate Bay of Pigs intrusion effort in 1961.
He was a coach and part-time scout in Florida for the Dodgers when, in 1970, Campanis tabbed Avila to spearhead the franchise’s push into the Dominican Republic, which Campanis considered as fertile ground for skill with Cuba off limitations after the transformation.