Avila joins Whitecaps Hall of Fame at annual banquet

Detroit Tigers' Alex Avila (13) scores on a single by Rajai Davis off Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s a reminder that spring isn’t too far off: the West Michigan Whitecaps’ annual winter banquet.

The event was held Thursday evening at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

One of the highlights of the night was Alex Avila’s induction into the Whitecaps Hall of Fame.

The Tigers drafted Avila, a catcher, out of the University of Alabama in the fifth round in 2008. They sent him to West Michigan and his career took off. He hit .305 in 58 games, putting himself on the fast track to the big leagues. By made his MLB debut in August 2009 and hit his first home run in just his second game with the Tigers. He was an All-Star in 2011. He also helped the Tigers make the playoffs for four consecutive seasons from 2011 to 2014, including playing in the 2012 World Series.

Avila is only the 15th inductee since the team’s hall of fame was started in 2009.

“It means a lot,” he told 24 Hour News 8 of the honor. “I was a little surprised when I got the call, but I’m glad I was able to make an impression here, even if it was a small one.”

Avila recently signed back with the Tigers after a year away in Chicago with the White Sox.

“I’m very excited. Obviously, I’m very familiar with the team, the city of Detroit and Michigan, so I’ve gotten a lot of ‘welcome homes’ the last couple of days. It’s been kind of nice,” he said.

About a third of his Detroit teammates were also in West Michigan for the banquet, which raised more than $57,000 for youth baseball in West Michigan.

This year brings some changes for the Whitecaps. Mike Rabelo, who played for the Whitecaps in 2002 and 2003, is returning as their new manager. He told 24 Hour News 8 he’s “super excited” to be back.

The Whitecaps open their season at home on April 6 against the South Bend Cubs.