Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler has something to prove. At 35 years old, the cagy veteran is no longer the All-Star caliber player he was with the Rangers and Tigers, but he's eager to show he can still contribute to a World Series title - the one thing still missing from an otherwise stellar career.
Kinsler's numbers speak for themselves. In addition to four All-Star appearances and a Gold Glove, he's just one of 40 players in MLB history with career numbers of at least 200 home runs, 1,000 runs scored, 1,600 hits and 200 stolen bases - a group that includes names like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Derek Jeter. Kinsler is a member of an even more exclusive fraternity, as one of just 12 ballplayers in history to record multiple seasons of 30 HR/30 SB, and already ranks 19th all-time among second baseman in WAR.
He's been even better on the game's biggest stage, where he's hit .291 with an .848 OPS in 37 career postseason games with Texas and Detroit. His performance in the World Baseball Classic last spring, including a two-run home run in the championship game against Puerto Rico, helped an upstart Team USA capture their first ever WBC title.
Those accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider that Kinsler was a lowly 17th-round pick out of the University of Missouri in 2003. He spent that summer with Spokane and hit .277 while leading the team in steals (11) and triples (6). From there he was off to the races, debuting in the big leagues with the Rangers in 2006 and making his first MLB All-Star team just two years later.
He was a constant threat for Texas at the plate and on the bases, helping the Rangers reach a pair of World Series, before a surprise trade to Detroit for Prince Fielder before the 2014 season. Kinsler was as good as ever during is time in the Motor City, including his first career Gold Glove award, but it was clear that the Tigers were nowhere near contending.
After a short stint with the Angels to begin this season, Kinsler was shipped to the powerhouse Red Sox at the trade deadline to replace the injured Dustin Pedroia. We recently caught up with Ian to talk about his time in Spokane, last year's memorable run in the World Baseball Classic, and whether or not he's got a future as a manager.
Spokane was the first stop on your professional career. What do you remember from your time here?
I remember a lot about my time in Spokane, Papa George was who hosted me, and it was an awesome experience living with him along with other teammates throughout the summer.
What was it like to win the Northwest League championship?
It's always huge experience to win a championship anywhere but to do it in my first pro season was a ton of fun. We had a great team and a great coaching staff. We had a bunch of guys that where drafted out of college and we jelled very quick.
You're originally from Arizona and played college ball there and in Missouri. What were your impressions of the Northwest?
I love the Northwest. Spokane reminded me a little of growing up in the desert, which was unexpected, but I enjoyed it there. Seattle is one of my favorite cities to visit during the summer.
You've been in the big leagues for 13 seasons now. What keeps you motivated during a 162-game season?
There is something new each day that keeps me motivated. Weather it's playing against a ex-teammate, family in town, or playing against a division rival, there is always something.
You were a 17th round pick but you've performed like a first rounder. What's been the secret to your success?
There really is no secret to success. It's all about hard work and a great supporting cast. My family and friends are huge for me.
Best big league memory?
Favorite big league memory is being a part of the Ranger teams in 2010 and 11. We had so much fun playing the game.
Who is the one big league pitcher you hate to face?
What was it like wearing a Team USA jersey while you competed in the World Baseball Classic last year?
It was something that I would never give back and do again if I had the opportunity. It was a huge honor to play on that team, and playing for Jim Leyland was everything I expected. He's a great man. What a great experience.
You got to spend the last day of the 2017 season as manager for the Tigers. What was the experience like?
It was surprising, I wasn't expecting that. Thanks to Brad's foresight I was able to manage a game. I enjoyed it for one game, not sure if I could did more than that.
What are your plans once your playing career is over?
I'm not sure. Play a lot of golf to start.
Do you have a favorite ballpark food?
Any advice you would give to young ballplayers?
Swing hard and have fun.
Anything else you'd like to tell Spokane fans?
Spokane was my first stepping stone of my professional career. It is a place I will always remember and hold close to my heart.
About the Spokane Indians
The Spokane Indians are the Short Season Class "A" affiliate for the Texas Rangers. Avista Stadium is home to the $5 Bench Seat courtesy of Multicare. Ticket packages for the 2018 season are now available for purchase. CLICK HERE to reserve your seats today. Parking at all Spokane Indians games is FREE. The Spokane Indians Team Store is open M-F 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, and 10:00 AM on all game days.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.