The grind that Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila pushed himself through at the end of the 2011 season did not go unnoticed by the national baseball media. (Playing the New York Yankees in the postseason may have contributed to that.)
Apparently, Avila's endurance and determination made a lasting impression on ESPN's Buster Olney. On last week's "Baseball Today" podcast, Olney was asked the unusual question of which baseball players would make good cow farmers.
(Olney grew up on a farm in Vermont and milked a lot of cows, which has probably been mentioned a time or 100 on the "Mike and Mike" show.)
In Olney's view, the cow farmer mentality is one of a player who performs the same task every day without complaint or acknowledgement of pain. So which baseball player best fit that criteria in his mind?
"Alex Avila of the Detroit Tigers has a farmer's mentality," Olney said.
"Every single day, trudges out there. We saw it during the playoffs. That guy was so beaten up during the postseason. There were times when you'd see him walk off after catching a half-inning and you thought, 'There's no way he's coming out for the next half-inning.' And he did. And he just ground through it.
Recently, I was talking with Justin Verlander and he was talking about that. And I would ask Alex after games, 'How you doin', man?' Because you knew he was hurting. And he'd look at you, 'Oh, I'm fine. I'm fine.' And that reminded me of farmers, who gottamilk cows twice a day, no matter what day it is, no matter how bad they're feeling."
I can envision the "Baseball Tonight" feature now. During spring training, Avila and Olney can find a farm somewhere in Florida and get to some cow milking. And when Avila needs a break, or some cow chips need to be shoveled away, call in Gerald Laird. Hey, wasn't he signed to fill in for Avila?
You can listen (or download) to the whole podcast here. The quote about Avila comes at the 14:45 mark.