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Alex Avila Promoted to Detroit Tigers
It was just a routine day for Alex Avila.
The former Crimson Tide All-American and fifth-round draft pick was catching and batting fifth as the Erie (Penn.) Seawolves prepared for Tuesday's Eastern League game with the New Britain (Conn.) Rock Cats at Jerry Uht Park.
Tide Trio Set to Make Pro Baseball Debuts
Alabama seniors Kent Matthes, Vin DiFazio and Austin Hyatt have signed professional baseball contracts and will begin their minor league baseball careers this weekend.
Following a professional baseball career that spanned 12 seasons, including five in in Major League Baseball, Andy Phillips returned to the University of Alabama in 2011 as an assistant coach. Beginning with the 2014 campaign, Phillips enters his fourth season and is the hitting and infield coach for the Crimson Tide, while sharing recruiting responsibilities for the program.
"Andy was a phenomenal player here, and I couldn't have been happier with his decision to return to Alabama," said Alabama head baseball coach Mitch Gaspard. "He is the most well-rounded person I have ever coached and been around, and we are very fortunate to have him join our coaching staff."
Phillips coached up a 2013 infield that featured freshmen Mikey White at shortstop and Kyle Overstreet at second base. Despite the youth, the Crimson Tide finished second in the country with 80 double plays, one shy of the national lead and one shy of the school record.
Mitch Gaspard returns for his fifth year as the head baseball coach at the University of Alabama in 2014. In his first four years as the head coach of the Crimson Tide, Gaspard led the Tide to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 2010 and 2011, before guiding the Tide to the schools 23rd NCAA Regional appearance in 2013 to reach the postseason in three of his four years at the Capstone.
Gaspard has developed his own philosophies on hitting, pitching, defense and ways to build a championship program and one cannot argue with his success. That success is built on a foundation of hard work and high energy, both on and off the field.
"We want to be known as a blue-collar-type team," Gaspard said. "I believe in hard work. We want to work hard in the classroom, during practice and in the games. We want to out-work the teams we play. Our strength and conditioning program is built around mental toughness. When the game is on the line in the ninth inning, we want to be mentally stronger than our opponent. We want the toughness to show in all areas of our team."
Dax Norris enters his seventh season as assistant coach at the University of Alabama in 2014. Norris who was an All-American catcher for the Crimson Tide in 1995-96 under head coach Jim Wells and then assistant coach Mitch Gaspard, currently works with the pitchers and catchers while helping coordinate the recruiting efforts for the Tide.
"With Dax having played for Alabama, everybody remembers the type of player he was. He is the same way as a coach," said Gaspard. "He is a high energy guy who gives you great effort every day. Dax bleeds crimson and white and was an All-American here. His time as a player here and in professional baseball really brings a wealth of knowledge to our program."
Norris, who was a hard-nosed players and one of the cornerstones of Alabama's baseball revival in the 1990s, brings that same work ethic and intensity to the Crimson Tide coaching staff. He began his coaching career at the Capstone as the hitting instructor from 2008-10, before transitioning to the pitching staff and tutoring the catchers beginning with the 2011 season. Norris also handles a number of recruiting responsibilities for the program.