Ian Kinsler played Major League Baseball for 14 seasons. He was on the Texas Rangers for eight years, and on the Boston Red Sox during their 2018 World Series win. He retired in 2019 with 1,999 career hits, and in 2020, decided to join the Israeli national baseball team to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.
Here are 18 things to know about Ian Kinsler, the Jewish baseball player and star of Team Israel:
1. Ian Kinsler was born in Tuscon, Arizona, on June 22, 1982 (making him a Cancer!) to a Jewish dad and a Catholic mom. He celebrated both Jewish and Christian holidays growing up. And he always loved baseball:
2. Kinsler’s paternal great-grandparents, Benjamin Künstlich and Rose Künstlich, fled Germany in the 1930s to escape rising antisemitism. They changed their name from “Künstlich” to “Kinsler” when they had Jack, Ian’s grandfather.
3. Ian’s dad, Howard Kinsler, grew up in the Bronx, was bar mitzvahed at Temple Adas Israel on the Grand Concourse (right by Yankee Stadium), and played baseball as a freshman in college at the University of Arizona.
4. “I’ve had asthma my whole life”, Kinsler said. “That was tough when I was younger. I woke up a lot and couldn’t breathe, and had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. It kind of held me back from athletics. I still have it, but I control it. Now I use an atomizer or an inhaler. When I was younger, I used this breathing machine… I hated that thing. I always wanted to run around and be active.”
5. In high school, he led his Canyon del Oro High School baseball team to state titles in 1997 and 2000 (as a freshman and senior). His senior year, he was named first-team All-State and first-team All-League. And, in a fun twist, four of his high school teammates also played in the MLB.
6. He was drafted right out of high school in 2000, but decided to attend college at Central Arizona College instead. He was drafted again in 2001, but decided to play college ball a bit longer. Then as a sophomore, he transferred to Arizona State University, and as a junior, he headed to the University of Missouri. Guess what? He was drafted a third time in 2003, in the 17th round. And this time, he decided to sign with the Texas Rangers on his 21st birthday.
7. Ian’s draft pick was “one of the greatest 17th round picks of all time.” As he wrote on Instagram after the 2020 draft, “many great players have been drafted after the 5th round.”
8. Ian made his Major League Debut in 2006. He recalls facing off at bat to Curt Schilling: “The crowd was full; I had the butterflies going, so to get that hit was huge. The family was in town. I think that was a good thing because it got me locked in. To go out there and face one of the best pitchers of all time, you’ve got to be locked in. It’s your first game, your first big league experience—it was unbelievable to face that guy.”
9. He was with the Rangers for eight seasons, traded to the Tigers, then the Angels, and then the Red Sox. He ended his career on the Padres. In his career, Kinsler became a four-time All-Star and he won two Gold Gloves at second base. He ended with 1,999 hits (one short of 2,000!), a .269 batting average, 257 home runs, 909 RBIs and 243 stolen bases.
10. On retirement, Kinsler said, “My pride wouldn’t let me go halfway at something that I’ve been doing at 100% for my whole baseball life.”
11. In March 2020, Ian Kinsler obtained Israeli citizenship so he could play on Team Israel baseball, calling the decision “a no-brainer.” Israel is one of six teams playing in the Tokyo Olympics. Kinsler will be 39 when he competes.
12. “It’s every athlete’s dream to be able to compete in the Olympics and I’m even more excited to be able to do this playing for Team Israel,” Kinsler said.
“In baseball, we always talk about team chemistry and how quickly it can develop, when you have these common roots, it’s an instant connection,” Kinsler said.
13. “There’s also a huge sense of pride in competing for your heritage with Team Israel. It’s a different experience and a unique opportunity, to represent both countries that have made me who I am,” Kinsler said. He went to Israel in 2020. Here are snaps from his trip:
And here’s him batting with a shofar:
In honor of the Jewish High Holidays, here's Ian Kinsler in Israel, holding a Shofar like a baseball bat.
(Photo sent to me by Danny Grossman) pic.twitter.com/JmM9zZHk9m
— Gabrielle (@gfstarr1) September 25, 2020
14. Kinsler married his high school sweetheart, Tess Brady, in 2006. They have two children, Rian (born December 2008) and Jack (born June 2011).
15. “My biggest accomplishment as a player is a hard question to answer,” Kinsler says. “If I had to pick, I would say being a part of the Texas Rangers teams that turned the direction of the franchise. The Rangers had never won a playoff series before that.”
16. The Athletic named Kinsler the “most underrated player of the 2010s” in their best of the decade awards. Sportswriter Jayson Stark explains: “In my prep for the writing of this opus, I churned out dozens of leaderboards for the 2010s. The most surprising name who showed up on a bunch of them was Ian Kinsler. Did you know he was in position to lead the entire sport in runs scored for the ’10s (879) until Trout (903) passed him in August this season? You might think run-scoring is just a product of the teams a guy plays for. But baserunning savvy matters, too. And of all the players in the ’10s who scored 800-plus runs, nobody had a better rate of runs scored per times on base than Kinsler.”
17. He co-owns Warstick, a baseball bat company.
18. To end, a collection of Ian Kinsler leadoff home runs? Yes:
Bonus: A custom Ian Kinsler trading card, just for you!!