(JTA) — The rarity arose in the initial meeting of first-year Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and his second baseman Ian Kinsler, newly traded from the Texas Rangers: a Jewish player reporting to a Jewish manager.
Ausmus was “raised the same way I was,” Kinsler learned, with one Jewish parent and an upbringing in which Judaism “wasn’t something that was completely ingrained in our lives,” the 31-year-old Arizona native said in his pronounced Texas twang.
The chat also covered Ausmus’ experiences piloting Israel’s World Baseball Classic entry in 2012, his only previous managerial job.
Both have settled in quickly in Detroit, helping to lift the Tigers to the best record in Major League Baseball as of last weekend. Batting leadoff, Kinsler carries a .300 average and stands among the American League leaders in runs and hits.
Tigers fan Morris Amitay, AIPAC’s former executive director who came to watch Detroit sweep the three-game series here, said he can’t help but kvell over the combination of Jewish manager and player.
“Here’s a team that had Hank Greenberg, and now it’s gone back to its Jewish roots,” he said.
Kinsler wears uniform no. 3; the 5 he wore for Texas had been retired by Detroit to honor Greenberg, its Hall of Fame first baseman from 1930 to 1946.
A uniform-always-dirty player, Kinsler draws ire from opponents and admiration from teammates. He’s a welcome spark plug for a team that has ridden power hitting and dominant starting pitching to three consecutive A.L. Championship Series and the 2012 World Series.
In eight seasons with the Rangers, Kinsler was a three-time All-Star who helped the Western Division club reach the World Series in 2010 and 2011. In postseason play, his average is .311.
His Nov. 20 trade for first baseman Prince Fielder “was a little bit shocking,” he acknowledged while dressing for a recent game here. But playing for Detroit “is awesome,” he added.
Ausmus was hired two weeks before the trade.