The end of the baseball road is near for former major leaguers Ian Kinsler and Danny Valencia. But first, they have important games to play and, they hope, a gold medal to win.
Kinsler and Valencia wrapped up their nearly week-long preparatory stint with the Ducks Thursday night in advance of playing for Israel in the Olympics, which begin later this month. They will now join their Olympic teammates for a barnstorming tour of the east coast – one that stops at Fairfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip on July 20.
Kinsler went 2-for-4 with a single, double and two RBIs for the Ducks (20-17) in their 6-4 loss to the High Point Rockers in Central Islip. Valencia went 0-for-4 with an RBI.
"It’s been successful," said Valencia, 36, who played for seven teams from 2010-2018. "It’s been fun to be out here with the guys. They’ve got a good a good group of people here. I’ve felt progressively better at the plate, which is the goal here. It's been a real pleasure."
Valencia finished his stint hitting .167 (3-for-18) with a walk and two RBIs in six games.
Kinsler finished his stint with the Ducks hitting .375 (6-for-16), including two doubles, two RBIs and a run scored in five games.
Kinsler, 39, a four-time All-Star who made his name with the Texas Rangers, said he was looking to focus on timing and strike zone awareness – something that he appeared happy with.
"I think, offensively, it came a little bit quicker than I thought," he said. " . . . My mind is moving faster than my body. I need to slow down a little bit. But other than that, it’s been pretty successful."
During Kinsler’s debut at second base Friday night he was treated to a barrage of chances early in the game. It was almost as if the ball knew he needed reps, and Kinsler handled them with precision. For someone who hadn’t taken an in-game ground ball since August of 2019, he welcomed the workload.
"You know, you can take (batting practice) and you can see the ball coming at you and kind of flip the switch a little bit offensively," Kinsler said. "But, defensively, you get a fungo and that's really all you get practice-wise. So, to be in a game situation and get caught up with speed is something that I wanted to get done."
Commack native and Ducks utility man Jesse Berardi – who has had his playing time impacted by the presence of Kinsler and Valencia – said he’s learned a lot from how the duo work.
"I grew up looking at those guys in the big leagues," Berardi said. "They were amazing players and they’re really cool guys. I’m learning a lot . . . They’re super receptive to any questions. Watching how they go about their business and how they handle things is really a great learning opportunity for me and all the guys here."
As for their baseball futures beyond Tokyo, both Kinsler and Valencia are content in retirement.
"I think my playing’s done," Valencia said of his post-Olympic plans. "Life after baseball comes now."
Kinsler was a little more specific as for what mid-August and beyond holds for him.
"Golf, swim, fish, drink beer," he said. "Anything but baseball."