Ian also played soccer while growing up, even making the Arizona all-state team as a midfielder his senior year at Canyon del Oro High School.
Anybody who has met Ian Kinsler and his family will tell you that he got his laid-back approach to life from his mother, Kathy, a Medicaid case manager for the state of Arizona. Underneath that, though, there is a single-minded, purpose-driven athlete. That can only come from his Dad, Howard. Or, as he's called, "The Prison Warden." Not as a nickname, but by trade.
Howard Kinsler escaped the south Bronx in the 1960s, then fled west when he got a chance to play freshman basketball at the University of Arizona. He settled into a job for the Department of Corrections, eventually running an 800-inmate facility as part of the state prison at Tucson. He retired in October 2005, after 25 years, at age 52.
Ian and his father are competitive. He remembers often quarrelling with his father over the rules of the house; his propensity for leaving socks and shoes strewn about was of particular irritation to his dad. Another source of irritation: rolling his eyes when Howard launched into warden mode. Ian did it before an elite level game when he was 12. Howard was coaching the team. He benched his son. No further arguments.
For the most part, though, sports were where Howard and Ian shared common ground. Ian loved baseball. Howard loved competing with his son. Ian developed a similar love of competition.
"It was always our escape," Ian says. "If we could go to the park and work on baseball for two hours, everything was perfect." (Evan Grant-Dallas Morning News-3/04/06)
Kinsler's father is Jewish and his mother is Catholic.
Ian always has really never been the biggest star on a team. At Canyon de Oro, the Duncan boys, Shelley and Chris, sons of St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, were the stars. Then it was Scott Hairston, who would become the seventh member of his family to play pro ball.
Eventually, it was Brian Anderson, Kinsler's best friend for the last 10 or so years. Anderson bloomed at Arizona, was the Chicago White Sox's first-round pick in 2003, and in 2006 became the team's starting center fielder.
Kinsler had a solid college career, playing as a freshman at Central Arizona Junior College, where he was on the same roster as Arizona's Scott Hairston and Oakland's Rich Harden. Kinsler then transferred for a semester to Arizona State, hitting .230 in 61 at-bats and played alongside Dustin Pedroia, whom the Red Sox drafted in the second round in 2004. "He's a pretty good player," Kinsler said. "I was playing short, he was playing second, but I hit around .240, made a couple of errors, and wasn't playing so well, so Murph (ASU coach Pat Murphy) moved Dustin to short."
Pedroia's arrival prompted Kinsler, who was drafted twice by the Diamondbacks (29th and 26th rounds in 2000 and 2001), to transfer to Missouri. He hit .335-6-45 for the Tigers, helping them earn a regional bid for the first time since 1996. (Part of above: John Manuel-Baseball America-5/6/04)
Before 2004 spring training, Kinsler added 15 pounds of muscle via a weight-training program.
In September 2004, Kinsler was the recipient of At the Yard's first Diamond in the Rough Award. The award, sponsored by the minor league baseball publication, recognizes a minor league player who has earned prospect status after having been drafted in the lower rounds. For the 2004 season, Kinsler hit a minor league-best 51 doubles at his two stops.
He likes to play golf, but also watches a lot of TV. He has a Labrador Retriever named Yogi. For music, Ian had a Cross Canadian Ragweed CD in his car late in the 2004 season. "They're awesome, a country rock mix," Kinsler said. (Lisa Winston-USA Today Sports Weekly-11/17/04)
Ian also likes Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Dierks Bentley, and Lynard Skynard. For TV, he likes Entourage, the Sopranos, and SportsCenter.
Movies? The Boondock Saints, Old School, Wedding Crashers, and Step Brothers.
Ian has ADHD and also suffers from asthma.
Ian's first job was in a grocery store, Fry's Foods and Drugs, while in high school in Tucson. He bagged groceries, restocked shelves, and got the carts out of the parking lot. "I quit after two weeks and never worked another day besides baseball," Kinsler said.
In 2005, Baseball America rated Ian as the 4th-best prospect in the Rangers organization. In the spring of 2006, the magazine had Kinsler as 6th-best prospect in the Texas farm system.
Ian was a business communication major in college.
In December 2005, Ian proposed to his girlfriend since high school, Tess Brady. They got married in 2006.
During the winter before 2007 spring training, Kinsler gained 20 pounds in an effort to increase his endurance.
"I mainly focused on my legs," Kinsler said. "In the past I haven't done much with my legs, but I think that will help my speed and help me stay strong. I've noticed a difference taking ground balls. I'm not getting tired at the end."
In 2008, Rangers relief pitchers nicknamed Kinsler "Lettuce." So when Ian gets on base, they'll say, "Who's hungry? There's some produce on aisle 3."
Ian was asked what the best Christmas gift he had ever received was, saying, "Probably a basketball hoop that I got one year. I really wanted a basketball hoop. I was probably 12. That was probably my most anticipated gift. Every year I got baseball cards in my stockings. They still do that for me just to keep the tradition going," Kinsler said.
As for holiday traditions, "I'm from Tucson, and usually we go up to Phoenix, where my mom's family is from and celebrate Christmas there. She has a great big family, 11 brothers and sisters, so we have a big family gathering and do it on Christmas Eve. Obviously, we celebrate Hanukkah on my Dad's side with his friends that he grew up with."
Kinsler grew up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukah. Asked what that was like, "We celebrated both. Hanukkah we wouldn't celebrate on the exact date of Hanukkah. Sometimes we would do it early; sometimes we would do it late."
"Being Jewish, and since I wore number 5 with Texas, my dad wanted me to use Hank Greenberg's number 5, but it was retired and there was no way I was going to ask for that," said Ian, who grew up well aware of Hammerin' Hank's legacy.
"Being traded to Detroit, it was something I certainly thought about because he was a man that impacted America."
Instead, Kinsler approached Detroit legend Alan Trammell and received permission to wear his number 3. He did it as a tribute to Trammel and Lou Whitaker, Tigers icons who made up one of the game's great infield combinations, because SS Iglesias wore number 1, Whitaker's old number. "I thought it would be cool to have number 1 and 3 manning the middle infield in Detroit again," Ian said.
On April 15, 2009, Ian hit for the cycle against the Orioles. Kinsler hit a double in the first inning and a home run in the third. He followed that with a pair of singles in the Rangers' eight-run fourth inning. Kinsler then came up in the sixth and tripled into the right-center field corner to complete the cycle.
He is the first Rangers player to hit for a cycle since Gary Matthews, Jr. did on September 13, 2006, against the Tigers. Mark Teixeira hit for the cycle in 2004 and Oddibe McDowell was the first Rangers player to do it on July 23, 1985. And, Kinsler got two other hits. So his 6-for-6 performance while also hitting for the cycle made him the first player since 1890 to accomplish both feats in one game.
Kinsler has a strong drive to be the best baseball player he can be. He has worked very hard at the game, and that has paid off.
Ian made history on April 1 and 2, 2011. On Opening Day (April 1), Kinsler led off the game with a home run off Boston's Jon Lester, then on April 2, he led off the second game of the season with a home run off Red Sox starter John Lackey. According to STATS Inc., Kinsler is the first player in Major League history to hit a first-inning leadoff home run in the first two games of the season.
June 8, 2011: Ian went on paternity leave for the birth of his daughter, Rian, which his wife, Tess, delivered.
In Kinsler's eight years in Texas, he saw the team emerge from an also-ran into a perennial contender. For that, he credits former CEO Nolan Ryan. "Nolan put us on the map," Ian said. But by 2012, things were fading. "I saw the two World Series teams, and the way we played, the toughness we had as a team started to move away. It's weird. They were on top, but nobody said, 'What a great organization.'"
During that time, it was well-known throughout the game that there was a power struggle between Ryan and Jon Daniels, who acquired the title of "president of baseball operations" in March 2013, as part of a front office restructuring. Ultimately that led to Nolan Ryan's departure near the end of the 2013 season.
Kinsler squarely blames the man who traded him.
"Daniels is a sleazeball," Ian said during 2014 spring training. "He got in good with the owners and straight pushed Ryan out. He thought all the things he should get credit for, Ryan got credit for. It's just ego. Once we went to the World Series, everybody's ego got huge, except for Nolan's." (ESPN the Magazine - Robert Sanchez - 3/17/14)
Kinsler might show up to the ballpark clean as a whistle, but somehow he hits the field with grass stains on his britches and the infield's dirt blemishing his jersey.
He has the countenance of a bear awoken mid-hibernation, and the attitude of a spoiled rich brat. He wants to beat you more than life itself. If he had the choice between breathing and breaking up a double play, you might end up force-feeding him oxygen.
Kinsler's face is contorted into a permanent sneer from the first pitch to the last, and even after the game there is a dismissive smirk. He isn't happy unless he's added a bruise. If he goes 0-for-4 but the team wins, he's as happy as a pig in slop. In fact, that's what he looks like after every match. If he goes 3-for-5 but the team goes down, you'd better give him a wide berth. (By Greg Eno - May 30, 2014)
In some ways, the trade that sent Kinsler to Detroit helped him get back to the 2014 midsummer All Star Game Classic for the fourth time in his career, while injured Prince Fielder was absent from the 2014 All-Star festivities, having undergone season-ending neck surgery early in 2014, the guy for which he was traded is here.
It was the trade to Comerica Park that prompted Kinsler to shift his style of game, focusing more on line drives into the gap than home runs. "You work hard in the offseason and prepare to help your team any way you can," Kinsler said. "It's nice to be recognized for your hard work." (7/14/14)
Ever since Ian was a youngster growing up in Tucson, Arizona, he has always been willing to accept a challenge and to prove himself with his scrappy play, often when he had been overlooked. In 2014, for the first time he stitched into his glove the words, "Prove It."
Kinsler said, "I have been trying to prove it since I was in Little League because there was always someone bigger and stronger and everyone always wanted to talk about the kid who could hit it 400 feet," Ian explained. "But I always felt I was the best player and never got the credit for it."
Ian admits to having grown up with "a bit of a chip on his shoulder."
Kinsler's love of baseball was inspired by his father, Howard, a former Arizona prison warden, who played ball with his son constantly when Ian was first old enough to pick up a bat and ball.
"He wasn't necessarily pushing me to be a baseball player, he was just spending time with his son and we really enjoyed it, just like me and my son now," he says. "The kid won't stop wanting to play baseball. I can understand it now."
When you ask Kinsler whom he credits most for his work ethic and "old school" aggressive play, he names his father, who often served as his baseball coach.
"We always talked about different baseball situations and learning to anticipate, but perhaps his biggest lesson was, 'If you aren't playing hard, you're sitting on the bench.'"
Michael Young, Rangers' shortstop, quickly influenced Kinsler both on and off the field.
"I learned a lot about the game from Michael and he was also a rock of a guy. Nothing really bothered him," Ian says. "He taught me a lot about the 'big picture.' He was the same guy, win or lose, and I watched how he went about his business and what he needed to do to get ready for a game."
April 2016: According rollingstone.com, Jack White (fan) teamed up with Tigers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler to invest in Warstic, which is an independent company that makes bats and other apparel for baseball players.
“I discovered the Warstic company through my love of design ,” White said in a statement. “I was drawn to…the simplicity and harshness of the designs. Most baseball bats and equipment in the sports world do not impress me much, but I think that there is a lot of room to explore aesthetic ideas in just baseball alone that can bring beauty and purpose to the weapons that athletes use to accomplish their goals.”
According to the statement, Warstic — which makes American ash, maple and birch wood and metal baseball bats — furnished Kinsler with his black on black maple Warstic for his first Major League Baseball game of the season, where he hit the first pro base hit and the first home run recorded with a Warstic bat.
“I was drawn to Warstic not only by its uncompromising quality but also what it represents,” Kinsler said in a statement. “Ben and the team truly believe that a bat should be more than just a bat — it can be a tool, an attitude and at the same time, a personalized representation of who you are as an athlete.”
Jenkins, in a statement, said White and Kinsler represent both sides of what Warstic is trying to achieve.
“The concept of balance is crucial to everything we do,” Jenkins said in a statement. “Ian is a great representation of what our brand is about on the player side and I’m excited to have his experience, knowledge, talent, and work ethic on our team. On the other side, Jack represents our love and appreciation of sports as fans, of not just making things, but our willingness to make new things that have never been seen before.” Naturally, Kinsler has been using Warstic bats for the 2016 season.
December 2016: Kinsler committed to play for the USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
May 12, 2017: Kathy Kinsler was always there for her little boy. She was part of his support team and a constant reminder that win or lose, everything was always going to be OK. She's still there. Her son, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, can't thank her enough.
"She wasn't very hands-on as far as the sport is concerned, but her mentality really helped me," Ian said. "She's really laid-back, easygoing and gets over things very easily. In this game, that's important, and you have to move on really quickly. My father is the opposite. He's intense and high-energy and constantly on top of things and making sure things are done right. The mixture of those two personalities really helped."
Kinsler, who has two children of his own, hopes to pass down the lessons learned from his parents.
"For me and my sister, both of our parents have been instrumental in our lives," Kinsler, 34, said. "My mom is now a grandma, and watching her with my children is unbelievable. I think before I had kids, I might have taken her for granted and not noticed all of the things she did for me when I was a child, but now I see it. She was always around to support me, and it's great to watch her do the same with my kids." (J Sanchez - MLB.com - May 12, 2017)
Ian has gone by the nickname "Kins" ever since he joined the Tigers in 2014. Very few people know him by the nickname "Bootsie," but the few that call him that have a story behind it.
The nickname goes back a decade to his early years with the Rangers. "That was a nickname [former Rangers manager] Ron Washington gave me back in 2007," Kinsler said.
Kinsler missed a month that season with a stress fracture in his left foot. He was walking around in a boot for part of that time while the fracture healed, which Washington found funny.
"He just started calling me Bootsie," Kinsler said. "He called me that through my career in Texas. And then when I got here, we got David Price, and then he started calling me that. I don't know how he found out about it or what, but he started calling me Bootsie."
Kinsler thought the nickname was dead once the Tigers traded Price a couple years ago, until Lloyd McClendon revived it when he arrived as hitting coach this spring.
"McClendon and Wash are really good friends," Kinsler said, "so McClendon started calling me that. It's kind of made it through somehow. It's kind of stuck." (Beck - mlb.com - 8/18/17)
When the Tigers opened their season-ending road trip at Kansas City, Ian's second plate appearance -- a third-inning RBI single -- was worth more than the Tigers' lone run in a 2-1 loss. It marked Kinsler's 600th plate appearance of the season, which vested his contract option for next year at $11 million. It guaranteed his deal, but it'll do little to guarantee a future with Detroit.
Two days earlier, the Tigers' clubhouse at Comerica Park was a mix of packing and preparation before their final home game. Players were getting ready for a matinee against the Twins while sorting through lockers and finalizing plans to move stuff from Michigan back home. Amid the traffic sat Kinsler at his locker, talking with general manager Al Avila.
"I think it's pretty self-explanatory what direction this team's going," Kinsler said. "If they want me a part of that or not is a decision they need to make. I'm going to treat the offseason the same way that I always have and prepare myself for next year as best I can. If they decide to trade me, then I make the adjustments that I need to make. If not, then I'm coming back to a place that's familiar. But it's up to Al, really, what he wishes. I don't know if he knows. I'm not sure." (Beck - mlb.com - 9/27/17)
June 2003: The Rangers chose him in the 17th round, out of the University of Missouri. Kinsler was signed by scout Mike Grouse.
February 19, 2008: Kinsler and the Rangers agreed on a five-year contract worth $22 million guaranteed.
April 10, 2012: Ian and the Rangers agreed on a five-year, $75 million contract extension.
- November 20, 2013: The Tigers sent Prince Fielder and $30 million (of the $168 due him over the next seven seasons) to the Rangers, acquiring Kinsler. Kinsler was guaranteed $62 million over the next four seasons, which includes a $5 million buyout on his 2018 club option. In total, Detroit will pay $92 million in the deal—$62 million to Kinsler and $30 million to Texas for Fielder.