On Saturday morning, Indians reporters headed to the Tigers’ clubhouse to catch up with former Tribe utility man Mike Aviles. During his time in Cleveland, Aviles became a fan favorite and a force in the clubhouse. During the 2015 season, his 5-year-old daughter, Adriana, battled leukemia and how the Indians came together to support Aviles and his family was one of the best stories of the baseball season. Adriana is now cancer-free and Aviles has found a new home with Detroit.
Q: What was it like to catch up with your old teammates?
MA: It was fun. It was definitely fun. The three years I was there, I had quite a few memories and a lot of fun times with those guys. It’s like not seeing your family for a little bit and all of a sudden you see all of your brothers again. You’re like, ‘Oh, hey guys, how’s it going?’ You remember all the fun times you had, the good times. At the end of the day, you make a lot of friends in this game. As much as I talk, I’ve made a few friends in this game. There are a lot of good ones on that team.
Q: Can you take us through the process of signing with Detroit?
MA: It was an interesting process, only because in the offseason, I was more focused on other things, with my daughter doing the bone marrow. It actually helped me as far as keeping the focus off baseball. So, in the offseason, I told my agent, ‘Give me a call only if you have something concrete, because I have other things to worry about.’ Detroit called and they offered me a job and then my agent went back to the drawing board and talked to the other teams that were interested just to make sure we had everything in place because I wanted to make a decision fairly quick, because when you have kids, you want to prepare a little bit if you can. So it came about kind of quick. I didn’t know the Tigers were interested until the day my agent called me. It worked out. I found a good team. It’s fun. I get to see the guys all the time and I get to talk crap with them back and forth because we’re on different teams now.
Q: Was it tough to get the news that Cleveland wasn’t going to re-sign you?
MA: It’s a double-edged sword. You understand the business side of everything and you understand that sometimes things don’t fit in the budget. You totally get it. There are no hard feelings. I have nothing bad at all to say about Cleveland for the way I was treated in those three years. It’s one of my favorite organizations because of the way I was treated, between Chris, Tito, the coaching staff, the training staff, the guys. The unit over there was really a family atmosphere for three years. It was one of those things that I will always cherish and appreciate, because you literally felt like a family every day. I enjoyed going to the park because I didn’t know what was going to happen. We joked around a lot over there. It was, ‘Something could happen today. It’ll be fun.’ It was a good time going on the field and knowing every single person had each other’s back.
Q: We found out Adriana was cancer-free during Spring Training. When did you guys get the news?
MA: November. Her last phase when she went home in September, she went through the last phase of her chemo treatment and during that last phase when I got home, she had gotten to be cancer-free. It was a matter of keeping her that way until she got the bone marrow. She got radiation after she was cancer-free and then the bone marrow. The bone marrow was on Dec. 4. She ended up getting the bone marrow. It took well. Everything was great. She had minimal side effects. It was crazy. The doctors joked around and said she was the test model patient for the bone marrow. Every day they waited, ‘When is the reaction going to come?’ You do get reactions out of it. Some kids get it worse than others. It’s basically the bone marrow fighting the old stuff. The fight on the inside is what we don’t see, but that’s what’s going on. She did a great job of taking it in stride and had no side effects. She’s been recovering ever since.
Q: Was it difficult when she went in for the bone-marrow procedure?
MA: Me and my wife weren’t as scared of the actual procedure, because it’s almost like a blood transfusion. It’s just a bag of blood and it goes in through her tubes. That part wasn’t that hard. It’s knowing the potential side effects, the rash you can get from it, the mouth sores. The pain that she could potentially be in was the hard thing for me. At the time, my wife was pregnant and she was miserable because she was at the end. She was really over everything. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. So I was at the hospital the entire time for the bone marrow and that killed my wife as well because she was there all through the summer and she wanted to be there through that, but she wasn’t able to. So I was there the whole time and was able to help out my daughter, so it was kind of scary for me, not knowing what to expect. You read the horror stories. You know about what could happen. You’re sitting there, waiting for it to happen. Luckily for her, she didn’t get hardly any mouth sores and barely any rash, so it worked out good and she had pretty much smooth sailing.
Q: Once you knew Adriana was cancer-free, how did you explain everything to her?
MA: I don’t. She doesn’t need to know until she gets older. We’ve done a good job of, in a way, sheltering her from actually knowing everything about it. She knows enough about it. She knows she had leukemia. She knows she had sicky bugs in her blood. She knows the terminology. She knows how to talk about it, but she doesn’t know the extent, the severity of what cancer can do. In all honesty, I don’t think a kid should know. At that age, their innocence is precious and I think they should keep it as long as they can, because it’s sad when kids do lose that innocence.
Q: What was the moment like when you learned she was cancer-free?
MA: She had an appointment that day and we were waiting for the doctor to call, but she had an appointment and we went to the doctor. She was doing her tests for the bone marrow. You have to do all these tests to see where her baseline is, so she was going to do her evaluation — for her intelligence, to see where she was intellectually — and on our way there, we walked right by her doctor and her doctor goes, ‘Did you get the news?’ We were like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He goes, ‘I sent you an email. I called you guys.’ Me and my wife were in the hospital, so we didn’t know. He was like, ‘She’s at zero.’ Instantly, my wife started crying. I start crying. It was just like, my daughter is laughing and smiling, wondering why the tears were coming down our eyes. We had to explain to her why. She was so excited, so pumped. It’s kind of hard to tell her, ‘You’re cancer-free, but now we have to do radiation and bone marrow.’ But she also understood that this was all part of the process. One thing about my daughter that surprised me is the way she took everything in stride. She literally confided in and trusted me and my wife more than anything. ‘I trust you, Mommy and Daddy, I know you guys are doing this to help me.’ Whatever it was that we had to do, she was OK with it. She also understood that if my wife or I could change places with her, we would. It made her happy to hear that, ‘You really would do that?’ ‘Yeah. When you get older, you’ll understand.’
Q: And you guys had a son over the offseason, too?
MA: [Madden Michael Aviles] was born on November 30. His due date was December 7. The bone marrow was scheduled for December 4. Nothing was planned, so we induced on the 30th and they had to do a C-section. She didn’t go into labor.
Q: Can Adriana travel with you guys now?
MA: They came to Florida. They were at spring training for a while. They haven’t been here yet because it’s still cold and it’s kind of warm back home. So might as well stay home and chill out at home and enjoy the warm weather. They’re supposed to come here the next homestand, so I’m excited for that.
Q: Has she started school?
MA: They start school in August this year. When they come here, she’ll be doing tutoring — both twins, actually — so they can be ready to go once school starts in August.
Q: Did you get much sleep with everything going on this winter?
MA: I actually did. Not early in the offseason. Around December, no, because every 30 minutes: ‘Daddy, I have to go potty.’ They have the liquid running on saline and stuff, so she’s always hydrated. Then once she got home, yeah. The little one sleeps. He was sleeping four hours in the beginning like nothing. Now he sleeps through the night. He’s the best baby of all of them, by far. He just chills, wants to hang out. If he hears people, he starts fussing because he wants to hang out with everybody. He wants to know what’s going on. You pick him up and he’ll be alert, watching what’s going on. He’s nosy.
Q: He’s not a motormouth like you?
MA: Nope. He’s different than all of the other ones. He’s way more calm right now. I don’t know how that’s going to play out later on. I’m going to need him to talk more. I can’t do it by myself. I’m outnumbered. The other three girls, they got it. They definitely got the gift of gab.