Kinsler takes winning swagger into Rangers HOF

August 14th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- set the Rangers’ blueprint for confidence. Maybe he walked into the clubhouse looking like his hair was “combed with a rock,” maybe he was pulling pranks. But when he stepped inside the lines at the Rangers' home in Arlington, he was a completely different person. He was a ballplayer.


That was the word used by many, including Rangers manager Chris Woodward and former infielder Michael Young, to describe Kinsler’s presence. Kinsler knows it. He was and is a competitor, which is why one of his favorite things to hear is, “I hated playing against you, but I loved you as a teammate.”

“I played against him at the end of my career,” Woodward said. “He wasn’t the most cordial guy out there; didn’t really say much to you. Reminded me of Chase Utley a little bit. Maybe he’d give you a nod, may not even look at you, like, ‘Yeah, dude, I don’t really care about you. You’re on the other team.’ And it was borderline arrogant -- more cocky than arrogant, but he just believed himself. He was good.”

Kinsler -- who was inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame on Saturday along with John Blake, the club’s executive vice president of public affairs -- believed he could win. He believed Texas could win. That mindset, along with a roster full of talent, helped the Rangers secure their first American League pennant in 2010 and another in ‘11.

Fans tuning in from home might remember hearing fellow Rangers Hall of Famer Eric Nadel make the call in the 2010 AL Championship Series when Neftalí Feliz froze Alex Rodriguez with an 83 mph breaking ball to capture the pennant.

“Strike three called -- the Rangers are going to the World Series!”

But Kinsler remembers feeling a rumble beneath him.

“The whole place was -- it just felt like it was gonna come down,” Kinsler said. “With the fireworks and just the eruption of striking out Alex and the last out with Feliz. I don’t think I can compare that to any other sporting event I’ve been to. It was just electric. It was so loud, and it was an incredible moment.”

His contributions to the franchise go beyond playing a part in leading the Rangers to their first World Series.

Kinsler, the club’s 2006 Rookie of the Year, spent the first eight years of his career with the Rangers. He earned three All-Star nods with Texas and holds club records for a second baseman with a .273 batting average, 156 home runs and 539 RBIs over 1,066 games from 2006-13. He also ranks in the top 10 among all Rangers players in stolen bases (second, 172), runs (sixth, 748), extra-base hits (seventh, 428), walks (seventh, 462), home runs (eighth), doubles (eighth, 249), total bases (eighth, 1,908) and multihit games (eighth, 335).

The Tuscon, Ariz., native was one of the most productive leadoff hitters in Rangers history. He holds the club records for games started (662) and home runs (109) when hitting first, including a record 29 homers to lead off the first inning.

“I felt like every box score I ever read, ‘Who’s this Kinsler guy?’ It’s like every game you’re seeing 3-for-4, two doubles, 3-for-4, homer, double. Like, has this guy ever hit a single?” Woodward said. “I was like, ‘This guy’s not that big, he just kind of stands wide open and steps wide open and just looks like he’s trying to launch everything.’ And then you start to realize, he was ahead of his time a little bit, as far as mechanically speaking. … He was a tough out.”

Kinsler is also one of just 13 players and two second basemen in Major League history with 30 homers and 30 steals each in multiple seasons, accomplishing that feat in both 2009 -- the same year he went 6-for-6 and hit for the cycle on Jackie Robinson Day -- and ‘11.

“He made the game look easy that day,” David Murphy said. “He made that game look easy, but also, as a leadoff man … the saying is, ‘As he goes, we go.’ And when he’s hitting, I feel like we were hitting and we were winning.”

Kinsler isn’t doing much leadoff hitting nowadays. He played his last MLB game in 2019 after stints with the Tigers, Angels, Red Sox and Padres, then went on to represent Team Israel in 2021 at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Now, he’s preparing to manage Team Israel in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

“If I was a player and I was confident that I wouldn’t pull every single muscle in my body and go out and play for him right now, I’d be the kind of guy that’d want to play for him,” Young said.