Ian Kinsler, the former Major League Baseball all-star, is coping with the rest of us during this coronavirus pandemic, which he describes as “a crazy time.” Still, like many of us, he also strives to find cause for optimism. In his case, he hopes that the break in sports action caused by the outbreak will work in his favor in preparation for competing with Team Israel, which he joined last month, at the Tokyo Games next year.
“Now the Olympics have been postponed, but regardless I will start training soon,” Kinsler, who is an adviser for the San Diego Padres, told Haaretz. “It will be a huge benefit to me personally because I can start slower and take my time. This could also open up another opportunity to play in the World Baseball Classic next spring, and become a little more part of the team before the Olympics next summer.”
Kinsler retired after the 2019 season, closing out his career with the Padres after collecting 1,999 hits in 14 seasons. He was selected an all-star in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. He helped his first team, the Texas Rangers, to three consecutive playoff appearances, including the World Series in 2010 and 2011.
He told Haaretz that he had thought of playing for Israel for some time, but only now was the time right. “Team Israel is something that was proposed to me before the last World Baseball Classic, but I had already committed to play for the U.S. That is when the wheels started turning,” he said. Kinsler helped the U.S. win the classic in 2017, batting leadoff in the gold medal game and playing second base as the Americans shut out Puerto Rico 8-0.
Whereas the World Baseball Classic only requires a team player to be eligible for citizenship of the country he represents, Olympic regulations demand that team member be a full-fledged citizen. This past winter, Peter Kurz, the president of the Israel Baseball Association got in touch with Kinsler, and got whoever needed to be involved in the process that culminated with him acquiring citizenship last month.
Kinsler also has a message for Israeli baseball fans. “I would want them to know that I am extremely proud of this opportunity and the trip that my wife and I took to Israel was truly a blessing,” he said. “It opened my eyes to a lot and made my roots grow much stronger. I will be ready to represent Israel on the stage of baseball. I’m looking forward to it.”
For the meantime, though, he just hopes everyone stays safe and healthy.