MIAMI — Twelve days before he announced his retirement from baseball, Alex Avila kicked back in the dugout at Truist Park in Atlanta, at ease. He deflected an apology for all of the questions about catchers much younger than he is. When told he had been talking for a while, he laughed, saying he didn’t have much else to do.

The twilight of a 13-year career looked calm and easy. Pressure only came from the rookies following his lead.

“They’ve been watching me on TV for a long time and know that I’ve caught some really good pitchers,” said Avila, 34, of mentoring in his final few seasons. “So they just want a little piece of that as far as like: ‘How do I talk to them? How do you get those guys to trust you? How do you go about this? How do you go about that?’

“I had somebody do that for me. It really helped me feel comfortable, and that’s what I want for them.”

Avila spent parts of eight years with the Detroit Tigers, two with the Arizona Diamondbacks and one each with the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins and Washington Nationals. And in his eight or so months with Washington, he has mostly been in the background. He was Yan Gomes’s backup for the competitive phase of this season. He then injured himself while playing second base in early July. Bilateral calf strains kept him out for close to eight weeks.

His offensive stats after a wild loss to the Miami Marlins on Monday: 100 plate appearances, 14 hits, 19 walks and 33 strikeouts. But he has been an important voice for Keibert Ruiz, Riley Adams and Tres Barrera, the team’s catchers of the present and future. Ruiz, the Nationals’ top prospect, has often trailed Avila around the clubhouse and batting practice. All three of them have picked Avila’s brain on receiving, game-calling and just being in the major leagues.

The lessons pull from Avila’s experience and what he sees from the bench. The hope is that they’ll last.

“The one thing that I never wanted to show my pitcher was that I was frustrated with an at-bat or a play on the field, things like that,” Avila said. “I always wanted to show like I’m in control, like there’s a presence back there that they can look to when s--- starts hitting the fan to help calm them down. But at the same time … winning is going to create that trust. That’s the only way, and the only way you win is if you put in the work. It’s not that hard.”

When pushed on that, he retreated a bit, grinning: “Sometimes it’s so simple it’s the hardest thing to do.”

“Alex has been super patient with us,” said Adams, a 25-year-old acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays, at LoanDepot Park on Monday. “Even this afternoon, I asked him to come down to the bullpen and watch me block some balls, just to see if he had any tips. We wound up talking for 45 minutes about a bunch of stuff. I’m just trying to pick his brain while I can.”

Yes, Avila already sounds like the wise old coach. For his next act, though, after this season ends, Avila should have many options, whether he wants to try coaching, broadcasting or working in a front office. His dad, Al, is the general manager for the Tigers. Nationals Manager Dave Martinez sees Alex as a future executive, running or helping run a team.

In the meantime, he’ll get a few more starts while supporting Ruiz and Adams. Avila debuted with the Tigers at 22, having appeared in zero games above Class AA. But at that level, catching for the Erie SeaWolves, Avila gave himself a crash course in how to attack opposing hitters. This was before video and advanced analytics were available in the minors. So Avila took notice of a security camera in center field, one the SeaWolves used to send highlights to the local news station.

Avila asked the team’s general manager if he could access the tape. Soon, full starts were copied onto DVDs. Avila and the pitchers watched in the small clubhouse, studying batters and their own tendencies. And some five years later, Avila estimates, there was an information boom that Avila was long prepared for. He was positioned to combine numbers with feel.

“For the most part, it’s going to work, so it gives you a great basis for going into a game plan,” Avila said of statistics that dictate strategy in 2021. He just laments that, nowadays, budding catchers are turned into robots who follow a scouting report, taking away their ability to improvise in the heat of an inning or at-bat.

“The hard part is knowing when to go away from [the numbers] because that hitter’s going to make the adjustment or my pitcher is going through the lineup for the third time and he’s got 85 pitches and he’s a little gassed,” Avila continued. “… When he’s fresh, maybe in that first at-bat, you know for a fact because of what the information is telling you, this is going to work if he executes his pitches. Well later in the game, it’s a little harder to execute your pitches when you’re a little bit tired and the hitter’s seen you a few times. So how are you still going to navigate through that? Those are all things that it takes time to learn.”

Who taught him, then?

Gerald Laird, a former Tigers catcher, was a big influence. What Avila remembers most is how Laird offered tips for blocking Justin Verlander’s curveball. How to talk with veteran pitchers was key, too. That means Avila is passing down wisdom to be passed down again, to whomever Ruiz, Adams and Barrera are teaching in their 30s. The game is cyclical like that.

“This is the time now, where you go back there with all intentions to get that guy out but not be afraid to make a mistake,” Avila said. “And if you do, learn from that because it’ll only make you better.”