June 24, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tigers' Ian Kinsler returns to familiar territory for Rangers series

Arlington, Texas — Big deal?

You bet it was a big deal Tuesday for Ian Kinsler to be sitting in the Tigers dugout, explaining how it felt to be back in the park where he played his first eight years.

* He’d been a three-time All-Star with the Rangers.

* Four times in a five-year stretch he scored more than 100 runs with the Rangers.

* He’d been a fan favorite at various times in his career with the Rangers because he was a .304 hitter in this park.

* And there was the season (2009) he hit 20 home runs in this park.

* And the year (2012) he had 45 extra-base hits in this park, most because of 28 doubles.

Whatever it was called at the time, and it has gone through a few changes, Kinsler was productive with the Rangers in this park.

And he didn’t want to be traded.

But he was, on Nov. 20 for Prince Fielder.

Now he was sitting in the visitors dugout after driving in from his house that is still his home, talking about what it’s like to be back.

Suffice to say, the media crowd around him was large, dodging, though not always successfully, the rain that kept the tarp on the field before the game.

What’s it like to be back here?

“It’s great to be back,” he said before the Tigers’ 8-2 victory, in which he belted a solo home run in the first inning. “Driving my car, sleeping in my bed. Playing in the stadium where I played for eight years.

“This is where I grew up. My first big-league hit was at this stadium. My first big-league home run was at this stadium. There are a lot of accomplishments here that I will remember.”

Did that make it somewhat surreal to be here as an opponent?

“A little bit,” Kinsler said.

Starting with the realization that even though you still live here, you don’t park where the home team parks anymore.

And, of course, the uncertainty of what kind of reaction he would get from the Rangers fans.

When asked about what his first at-bat would be like, and what kind of anticipation would accompany it, Kinsler turned it into a baseball question at first, knowing, of course, what the intent of the question had been.

“With Colby (Lewis) pitching, he’ll probably throw me a first-pitch fastball,” he said. “No, he threw me a first-pitch slider in Detroit.

“Who knows? It will be a baseball.”

When the television reporter who had asked the question about his first at-bat responded by saying “that’s a safe assumption,” Kinsler got serious.

“I’m guessing you’re talking about the reception I’m going to get?” he said. “I have no idea what to think about it. You know, I gave it everything I had when I played here. I spoke my mind at times. I kept my mouth shut at times.

“But I enjoyed my time. So that’s my side of it. Whatever their side is (meaning the fans), I guess we’ll find out.”

Of course, there will be fans who will focus on Kinsler’s parting shot, telling ESPN the Magazine about the Rangers in March, “I hope they go 0-162. I have friends and I love my friends. But I hope they lose their ... ”

He also never backed down from calling Rangers general manager Jon Daniels “a sleazeball” in that same interview.

“I don’t regret it,” Kinsler said about the story. “But it had nothing to do with being traded. I obviously wanted to be a Ranger my whole career. But I got traded.

“The comment (about 0-162) was made to be funny with a competitive streak in it. That’s what I meant by that quote. Maybe what I said about the general manager was a little uncalled-for, but at the time, it was my opinion.”

Despite his wishes he’d always be with the Rangers, Kinsler said his transition to the Tigers has “been pretty smooth, pretty easy. I’m enjoying my time (with Detroit). It’s a good environment to be a part of.”

tom.gage@detroitnews.com
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The Tigers' Ian Kinsler celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the first inning Tuesday in Arlington, Texas. Kinsler played eight seasons with the Rangers. / Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press