Ralph Avila, a pioneer in the Dodgers’ and Major League Baseball’s presence in the Dominican Republic, died Monday at his home in Florida, the team announced.
Avila started with the Dodgers in 1970 as a scout in Latin America, and among his signings were Pedro Martínez and Ramón Martínez, along with Raúl Mondesi, Mariano Duncan, Candy Maldonado, and several others.
In 1986, Avila and Dodgers president Peter O’Malley arranged for the purchase of land in San Antonio de Guerra, which became the site of the Dodgers’ facility in Campo Las Palmas which was the first of its kind in the Dominican Republic. From 1987 to 1991, Avila was the coordinator at the facility, which housed the Dodgers’ scouting operation and provided year-round training.
In a 2006 profile of Avila at ESPN, Kevin Baxter noted that between Ozzie Virgil Sr. becoming the first Dominican to play in the majors in 1956, and when the Dodgers hired Avila in 1970, only 24 total Dominican players played in the big leagues.
Per Major League Baseball in 2022, 99 Dominican players were on opening day rosters, the most of any country outside the United States.
But that’s not all, as Dodgers historian Mark Langill noted in his tribute to Avila, “Along with scout Epy Guerrero, Avila assisted with the formation of the Dominican Summer League.” Avila’s influence on baseball was immense.
Avila also helped start and later served on the board of the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame, which opened in 2010. Among the inductees are Jaime Jarrín, Fernando Valenzuela, Manny Mota, and Pedro Martínez.
Avila was named to the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, and was named international scout of the year by MLB in 2006,
For five decades, Avila was part of the Dodgers, from scout to regional coordinator to vice president to senior advisor, the latter which he was until 2021.
Alex Avila, a major league catcher for 13 seasons and now an analyst on MLB Network, is Ralph’s grandson. He shared a tribute on Twitter.
You were a Revolutionary, Leader, Scout, Pioneer, Innovator, Hall of Famer, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Disciplined and Tough but always Fair, a Man of God, Incredibly Generous, Loving, Caring, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather!— Alex Avila (@AlexAvilaMLB) January 31, 2023
Forever Abuelo Dodger!
I Love You!
Austin Chubb, who managed the Dodgers’ High-A affiliate in Great Lakes the last two seasons but before that managed in the Dominican Summer League from 2016-18, offered his remembrance on Twitter as well.
Never had the chance to meet Mr. Avila but could feel his presence all around Campo Las Palmas. A true pioneer and legend. He impacted not only @Dodgers baseball, but the entire landscape for the game we love. RIP pic.twitter.com/mMXxetWXwf— Austin Chubb (@AustinChubb) January 30, 2023
- Mark Langill’s tribute to Avila at Dodger Insider
- Enrique Rojas wrote of Avila’s death at ESPN, in which Al Avila, former Tigers general manager and Ralph’s son, said, “Dad passed away peacefully, a natural death, and is at peace with God.”
- Baxter’s 2006 profile of Avila at ESPN