Blue-and-white manager Kinsler talks Israeli baseball, Judaism

Ian Kinsler played for five teams, including the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox.

 played for five teams, including the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox. (photo credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL/ COURTESY)
played for five teams, including the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox.
(photo credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL/ COURTESY)

These are exciting times for the Israel National Baseball Team and for blue-and-white baseball in general as the manager of the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Ian Kinsler, is currently in Israel.

The six-time MLB All-Star played for five teams, including the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox, where he also helped capture the 2018 World Series.

Currently, the Tucson, Arizona, native is working in the front office of the San Diego Padres as he hones his post-playing career skills.

Team Israel shocked many at the 2017 World Baseball Classic by finishing in sixth place and then also qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where it had an admirable showing in the summer of 2021 in Japan. Kinsler, who was part of that team as a player, will now look to guide the blue-and-white to even higher heights as he takes over the reins of a very successful and growing program.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to manage the 2023 WBC team,” Kinsler stated at a press conference on Monday in the Holy Land at the new baseball complex in Ra’anana. “I had been involved with the United States team in 2017 and that was a tremendous experience. Israel made a huge impact in that tournament, with the energy they showed and the way that they played the game. We all were paying attention to Team Israel and they earned the right to not have to qualify for this upcoming tourney.”

 Ian Kinsler played for Team Israel at the Olympics in Tokyo after 14 MLB seasons.  (credit: COURTESY/JNF-USA) Ian Kinsler played for Team Israel at the Olympics in Tokyo after 14 MLB seasons. (credit: COURTESY/JNF-USA)

One of Kinsler’s biggest challenges will be putting together a competitive roster that can go toe-to-toe with powerhouses Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. However, the two-time gold glove award winning infielder already has a current MLB All-Star and back-to-back World Series champion with the Dodgers and then the Braves who has committed to play for Israel come next March.

“We are putting together the roster and coaching staff and we have had some great conversations with players both in the major and minor leagues. We are looking to bring in some great players, including Joc Pederson, who has committed to play and who will be in Los Angeles this week at the MLB All-Star Game.

“We have been in contact with all of the available players and Joc is going to talk to them as well. There is a whole winter and offseason as well to communicate with them. It’s a grueling schedule right now so we will be back to them as the season nears its end.”

Kinsler, who is making his second trip to Israel in as many years, will be conducting youth clinics as well as taking in some of the Maccabiah baseball games.

“I love being a part of this and seeing the kids’ eyes light up. I want to be around this project as we continue to build more fields and make the game more accessible to more and more kids who are looking to find out what the game is all about. This is the most important part of my trip. To be able to plan this around the Maccabiah games and to see the new field in Ra’anana was the main reason why I came along with my family.”

After obtaining his Israeli citizenship ahead of the Tokyo Games, Kinsler has also begun to delve deep into learning more and more about his Jewish roots with his entire family as they accompanied him on this trip to the Holy Land.

“I got my citizenship for the Olympics and it was an all-around great experience. Coming to Israel has allowed me to connect to my heritage together with my children, wife and father who are also here. So there is a lot of pride involved. When I grew up in Tucson I didn’t know a lot about my dad’s side of our heritage.

“I celebrated Hanukkah and Passover on occasion every once in a while, but I didn’t have a true understanding. But to see everything here and to be able to touch it and feel it brings out emotions that are hard to describe. As the years go by they get stronger. When I was playing I couldn’t understand why the [Jewish] newspapers on the East Coast of the United States were so interested in me, but now I really understand that.”

Kinsler took part in the opening ceremonies of the Maccabiah and was also in fact a torchbearer at the event. Walking into a packed stadium in Jerusalem was something that blew him away.

That was a lot of fun. In Tokyo, you didn't have people in the stands and it was not as exciting as the ceremony in Jerusalem. In fact, it was a lot of fun especially with the concert that was quite a mosh pit. My family enjoyed it all and it was a good night for everybody.”

But perhaps the biggest highlight for Kinsler on this trip has been the local cuisine that he can’t seem to get enough of.

“I love the food here – breakfast, lunch or dinner I am all in.”