“(Ilitch’s death) was definitely shocking,” Avila said, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com. “I mean, even when you know something is inevitable, something like that, somebody passing away, someone that you know, there’s no way to prepare for that. And I know a lot of people over the past few days have had heavy hearts.
“Hopefully it maybe could be a bit of a rallying cry for this team as well, going into this year. Being a part of the team for many years, winning four straight division championships, always trying to get him that title and not being able to, I know it doesn’t sit well with a lot of guys in the clubhouse.”
The catcher’s relationship with Ilitch goes back to Avila’s high school days when he was around the organization often due to his father Al’s involvement in the Tigers front office.
Fellow catcher James McCann echoed Avila’s comments on Illitch’s relationship with members of the team, and said he regrets not being able to capture a title with the team in the late owner’s honor.
“Last Tiger Fest, my flight got canceled and there was a (Detroit) Red Wings game, so we actually got tickets to go over there. He had me come up to the owners’ box and hang out with him for the entire game,” McCann said.
“Just the type of person that he was, the impact that he had on so many people, directly and indirectly, honestly it makes you feel bad that we never got him a World Series ring that he wanted so bad.”