August 3, 2005 - Long plane rides and even longer bus rides: In two and a half years in the minor leagues, Ian Kinsler has endured both. On July 26, the plane dropped the former Canyon Del Oro High School baseball player off in a familiar place: home.
The slick-fielding former shortstop, who used to emulate his childhood hero Cal Ripken Jr. in Wiffle ball, bunt ball and every other conceivable baseball-type game a young kid can conjure up, returned to Tucson Electric Park with miles on both his passport and his cleats to face the Sidewinders July 26 through 29.
So many miles in so little time.
Since being selected by the Texas Rangers in the June 2003 amateur entry draft, Kinsler has found his journey through the minor leagues a quick and sometimes overwhelming one. On July 28, he sat in the visitors dugout at TEP, a second baseman for the Oklahoma RedHawks and one giant step away from fulfilling the life long dream of every little leaguer ever to pick up a bat: the big leagues.
"I didn't expect to be here this fast," said the Rangers' 494th overall draft selection. "I expected to be here, just not this fast."
Before Kinsler landed in Oklahoma, his whirlwind tour took him from Arizona playing for CDO to stints with Arizona State University and Central Arizona College. After twice being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks (and twice rejecting them), Kinsler went to the University of Missouri for a semester, where the Texas Rangers drafted him. This time, he went to the pros and climbed the A-Ball and Double-A ladder with stops playing for the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League, the Clinton Lumber Kings of the Midwest League and the Frisco Roughriders of the Texas League.
In 99 games this season for the RedHawks, he has hit .258 with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs while crossing the plate 68 times.
Kinsler is another in a long line of former CDO players to reach the professional ranks of the minor leagues and one of three playing in the four-game Oklahoma-Tucson series. The others were Scott Hairston and Colin Porter.
"I think just playing with those guys makes you that much better," said Kinsler, remembering his playing days at CDO, "plus the quality baseball you're playing every day."
Being shrouded in a CDO program that has nine former players in the minor leagues certainly helped Kinsler develop into the player he is today. What has developed outside of the Oro Valley school, however, is his power stroke. After hitting only six home runs at CDO and one during his first year in Spokane, Kinsler erupted with the long ball, slugging 40 in the past two years. At the Triple-A All-Star game, he lost by one home run to champion Mitch Jones of the Columbus Clippers in the game's Homerun Derby.
With about 30 family and friends in attendance July 29 at TEP, Kinsler showed why the Texas Rangers think so highly of his talents when he walloped a three-run home run. He finished the game 2 for 6 with four RBI and twice reached on Sidewinders' errors, collecting two runs in the process.
A starting role at second base for the Rangers may take longer than expected for Kinsler, however. As the July 31 trade deadline came and went, the trade rumors of Texas' second baseman Alfonso Soriano proved to be only rumors. Still, a late season call up when the rosters expand to 40 players Sept. 1 isn't a far-fetched idea.
When asked if he roots for specific players to be traded, Kinsler only offers a quick chortle.
"When you're this close," he said, "you're always wondering what they (the Rangers) are doing. He's (Soriano) a good player, and if that does happen it will be tough to follow him. Anything to get to the big leagues."
At least there will be no more long bus rides.