DETROIT -- Somewhere in all the gear Alex Avila keeps at his house in Miami, there's the mitt Ivan Rodriguez gave him when Avila first converted to catcher at the University of Alabama. His father, Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila, had been talking with Rodriguez about the move, and Rodriguez mailed him a mitt, unsolicited.
Physically, it became Avila's first pro mitt once he used it that summer at Class-A West Michigan. Less tangibly, it became part of the legacy Rodriguez left in Detroit.
"There won't be another catcher like him," Avila said of Rodriguez, whose retirement became official Thursday ahead a formal press conference next Monday in Texas. "He's probably as good as it's going to get as far as a catcher that can play defense back there and also hit. He's probably one of the best to play that position."
Rodriguez will announce his retirement with the Rangers, his original team, and he'll likely go into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Ranger. To many in Michigan, however, he'll be remembered as the most important player in the Tigers' turnaround from 119 losses in 2003 to the World Series three years later.
"Pudge did very well for us here," manager Jim Leyland said. "I think that was one of the real big impact signings, probably in the history of the Tigers, under the circumstances -- he and Magglio [Ordonez]. Things weren't going so well here. I think the signing of Pudge was probably one of the big signings because of the significance of the timing of it."
Miguel Cabrera was only a Tiger for the final year of Pudge's Tiger tenure, but was a teammate with Rodriguez as a 20-year-old rookie in Florida.
"He's one of the guys that told me a lot of things to help me play the game," Cabrera said. "I'm very thankful for him. He's one of the best guys to ever play the game. I always say thank you, because I played next to a Hall of Fame guy. I was a lucky guy to play with him."