Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his professional career.
Kinsler, a three-time All-Star, is batting .303 with 11 home runs, 26 doubles and 51 RBIs at roughly the midpoint of his first season with Detroit.
Of course, it’s not the first time Kinsler has been a Tiger. He played for Missouri in 2003 after stints at Central Arizona and Arizona State.
Kinsler reached the big leagues with Texas in 2006, emerging as one of the top second basemen in the American League during eight seasons before he was traded as part of the Prince Fielder swap during the offseason.
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According to Baseball Reference, Kinsler has played the most games (1,156), scored the most runs (812), boasts the highest career OPS (.804) and collected the most hits (1,260), doubles (275), home runs (167) and steals (182) among former Missouri players to reach the majors.
Before the All-Star break, Kinsler chatted with The Star about his time at Missouri:
Question: Do you still follow Missouri sports and root for the Tigers?
Kinsler: “Yeah, last year, they went to the bowl game in Dallas, and that’s where I live, so I was able to attend that. I wanted to get to a football game at Ole Miss last year. I wanted to go see (The Grove). I heard it’s a great time.
“The baseball team is a little bit harder to follow obviously, because they’re not on TV, but I get some updates from the coaches every once in a while on guys they’ve got coming in and how good they think they’re going to be. I try to keep in touch as much as I can.”
Q: Would you have liked to play in the SEC?
Kinsler: “When I was there, it definitely would have made it a lot tougher, but the Big 12 was pretty good when I was at Missouri. I think there were four or five teams who made the NCAA Tournament when I was there. I think it was Texas, Nebraska, us, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State — there might have been six or seven teams.
“The conference was a good baseball conference at that time, but it would have been fun to play in the SEC just because of the way their fans are. They draw pretty good.”
Q: There are a lot of Missouri fans who also root for the Royals. Do you ever feel bad for raking against Kansas City? (He’s a career .328 hitter with 12 home runs and 38 RBIs in 61 against the Royals.)
Kinsler: “I don’t know if they’re all Royals followers, but, if they are, [laughs] I don’t know what to say.”
Q: A lot of local fans were hoping you’d wind up playing for Kansas City.
Kinsler: “I definitely left (the Royals) off my no-trade list when I turned it in. That was definitely something I considered in my head if the possibility of being traded happened. Last year, they were coming off a really good year and they’ve got a lot of really good, young talent. They’re an exciting team, so they were definitely in my head.”
Q: Do you still have fond memories of your time at Missouri?
Kinsler: “Definitely. I was there for a year. I wish it was longer, because it was a really good time in my life. I still stay in touch with guys I played with there and stay in touch with the coaches. The assistant coach (Missouri director of baseball operations), Evan Pratte, was just here for batting practice on Thursday, the first game here.
“Now, getting to know (former Missouri ace and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner) Max (Scherzer), it’s like its own fraternity — the baseball guys from Missouri tend to stay in touch with each other and know what’s going on with one another. So, it’s pretty cool.”