BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – If you asked Mike Avilés of the Boston Red Sox if he thought he could be a starting shortstop for a Major League Baseball team at the age of 18, he’d say yes. The reality is Avilés was a long shot even going back to his pre-collegiate career at Concordia College in Bronxville.
“It was the only scholarship offer I got and I wasn’t recruited by anyone coming out of high school,” Avilés said in an interview before taking on the Cleveland Indians. “I was playing a summer game and the Concordia coach Bob Greiner was coming to see another player. He got to see me play that day and eventually offered me a scholarship.”
Concordia Athletic Director Ivan Marquez remembers Avilés early on. “We knew right away he wasn’t a punk,” Marquez said. “He was a player. He was a grinder. In him we had assurance. He had that grown up like quality and it made him special to watch.”
Avilés spent four years at Concordia piling up the numbers on his way to becoming a Division II All-American and receiving player of the year honors in 2003. That year he batted .500 with 83 runs scored, 65 runs batted in and 22 homeruns in just 45 games. That got him drafted in the seventh round by the Kansas City Royals a check for $1,000 and a plane ticket to play for a minor league team.
“I knew that even though I wasn’t a big time prospect I was going to have to outwork most people,” Avilés said. “I knew I had the tools and if I just refined some things I figured I could get the opportunity.”
Avilés credits a strong Concordia baseball team that brought him the attention. “We were a really good team at the time and scouts were looking at several players,” Avilés said. “Thanks to those opportunities at Concordia they put in a good position to be successful.”
In 2007, Avilés was named the player of the year in the Royals’ minor league system; however it was a frustrating road for Avilés who almost quit the game in 2008. Thanks to urging from his wife Jessy, Avilés gave it one more shot. “It was for financial reasons mostly,” Avilés said. “I needed to support my family and couldn’t really do that on a minor leaguer salary. Thankfully in 2008 I got called up and finally got the security I needed.”
Avilés recorded his first hit at Yankee Stadium in 2008 a memory he’ll never forget. “I had the majority of my family there,” said the Bronx native. “It was really special having them there to see that. At that point in my career I’m not thinking how long my career is but more about making the most of this one opportunity.”
Last season Avilés was traded from the Royals to the Red Sox and was named the team’s starting shortstop in spring training. “I’ve been really excited about this opportunity,” he said. “I know being from New York it’s frowned upon, but it’s real special and I get teased about it all the time from friends. But they still cheer for me.”