For a second, Ian Kinsler claimed memory loss.
"When was the last time you played a game?" the four-time MLB All-Star was asked before his first game with the Ducks on Friday at Fairfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip.
"I don’t remember," Kinsler deadpanned.
But of course he did. It was August 2019 with the Padres, shortly before calling it a career after having season-ending neck surgery. The retirement put a bow on a 14-year career for Kinsler, who made his name with the Rangers and also played for the Tigers, Padres, Angels and Red Sox.
But Kinsler, 39, has returned to the field this summer and is set to play for Team Israel in the Olympics in Tokyo. He and fellow former big-leaguer Danny Valencia will play for the Ducks until July 8 to warm up for the games before they suit up for Team Israel.
Valencia, who played for seven teams during a nine-year career that ended in 2018, also made his Ducks debut Friday night in a 1-0 loss to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
Kinsler, who started at second base, finished 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout in five innings. Valencia, who started at first base, went 0-for-3 and just missed a home run in his final at-bat.
"They’re both taking the extra time to come here to play," Ducks manager Wally Backman said. "You can tell that they’re devoted."
Kinsler and Valencia are scheduled to play seven innings on Saturday and nine innings for the rest of the stint. Kinsler will have Sunday off, Backman said.
Kinsler said he chose to play for the Ducks because he heard good things about the organization and because Long Island is close to Rockland County, where Team Israel will begin a series of exhibition games after his Ducks stint. The Olympic baseball tournament begins July 28 and runs until Aug. 7. They’ll play primarily in Yokohama, about 25 miles from Tokyo.
"Right now, this is probably the easiest way to catch up with the speed of the game and get prepared for the Olympics," Kinsler said. "To sign a contract with an affiliated team was probably not a great idea. There’s a little more leniency here with this league and being able to sign on and play at a high level. It works out perfectly."
Kinsler, whose father is Jewish, played for Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Team Israel contacted him after his retirement to inquire about his interest, and he accepted the offer and made the trip to Israel to become a citizen. At that time, the U.S. had not qualified for the Olympics yet, he said.
"It’s hard not to have a deeper connection when you make that trip and you start digging into the history of your family, where they came from," Kinsler said. " . . . It’s been an awesome journey. It definitely makes you more proud to represent that side of your family and that heritage."