Rare Detroit Jewish Combination as Ian Kinsler Reports to Brad Ausmus

Tigers Duo Feed Nostalgia From Days of Hank Greenberg

Two of a Kind: Second baseman Ian Kinsler takes a cut in one of his first games as a Detroit Tiger. In a rare coincidence, the Jewish star reports to a Jewish manager in Brad Ausmus.
getty images
Two of a Kind: Second baseman Ian Kinsler takes a cut in one of his first games as a Detroit Tiger. In a rare coincidence, the Jewish star reports to a Jewish manager in Brad Ausmus.

By Hillel Kuttler

Published May 19, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

(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.

Brad Ausmus
getty images
Brad Ausmus

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.

Sitting in his Camden Yards office, Ausmus said his experience with the Israeli team provided “a little bit of a glimpse” into how managers build rapport with players and cultivate clubhouse camaraderie.

“In terms of preparation, I don’t know that there’s a ton of parallel because there’s so much more information [available] on major league players than there is on WBC players – in fact, sometimes even no information on WBC players,” he said. “I guess that in some regards you learn to make decisions you don’t really want to make [to cut players].”

The experience didn’t necessarily place him on the major league managing track, Ausmus said.

“There are only 30 managerial jobs. There’s no guarantee you’re going to get one of those,” he said. “I’d thought of it, but I never assumed it.”

A priority heading into 2014 was getting to know his Tigers as people and players. Six weeks into the season, Ausmus said, nothing has surprised him.

That could be because of his playing experience toiling for four teams, including the Tigers, in 18 years and winning three Gold Gloves at catcher, the thinking man’s position. Those parallels are more apparent, Ausmus said.

“As a catcher, you’re planning ahead, you’re strategizing, you’re dealing with a pitching staff. You also know what it’s like to be an everyday player,” he said. “As a catcher, it gives you a pretty good feel for what you would come across as a manager, for what the players are thinking, what’s going through their minds, what emotions they’re feeling.”

Given his short time with Team Israel, Ausmus figured he “certainly didn’t have any impact” on several players subsequently reaching the majors, but added, “I’m happy for them.”

That’s a sentiment the Tigers echo about working alongside Kinsler and Ausmus, at 45 a generation younger than his retired predecessor, the crusty Jim Leyland.

Pitching coach Jeff Jones said Ausmus is “very low-key, doesn’t panic, doesn’t get excited when things don’t go right,” and extremely prepared. All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander said his new manager is “more relaxed on the bench” and “totally different” than Leyland, with whom he remains close.

Kinsler, he said, brought a new dimension to the Tigers: speed. (Kinsler’s 177 steals set a Rangers record.)

“It’s been a lot of fun to watch. I love the way he plays the game,” Verlander said. “I hated the way he played the game when he was with the Rangers and we had to play against him. That’s a sign of respect.”

Told of Verlander’s description, Kinsler was pleased.

“That’s the kind of player I want to be,” he said. “I like to cause problems. If you’re not noticed, then you’re not doing something right.”

Off the field, a synagogue in suburban Bloomfield Hills, Mich., has invited Kinsler to enroll his two children in its summer program. In Texas, Kinsler said, his daughter Rian attended a JCC of Dallas program.

Judaism is “definitely something I want to teach them about,” he said, adding that his wife, a Catholic, is supportive. “To have that knowledge is important.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.