WBC Diary: CDO grad Kinsler managing Israel in Miami but Tucson storylines in Phoenix intriguing

PHOENIX — The Tucson ties in the World Baseball Classic here at Chase Field are limited but intriguing.

Sahuaro graduate Alex Verdugo is one of the most popular players with Mexico.

Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Alek Thomas of Mexico has family who lives in Tucson, including aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces.

Great Britain outfielder Justin Wylie played the 2019 season with the Arizona Wildcats.

Colombia pitcher Rio Gomez, formerly of the Wildcats who is the son of the late Pedro Gomez, is the most heartwarming story. He pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief with two strikeouts Tuesday in Colombia’s 5-0 loss to Canada.

The Atlantic’s Zach Buchanon wrote an informative feature on Rio Gomez that included details of Pedro Gomez telling Colombia pitching coach Walter Miranda at the 2017 World Baseball Classic in Miami that his son will pitch for Colombia in the next WBC.

Pedro, a former Arizona Republic reporter who went on to be an MLB reporter for ESPN, passed away from a heart attack at 58 years old on Feb. 7, 2021.

Over the last six years, Miranda has watched Rio progress in the Red Sox farm system. He has a 3.27 ERA in 217 2/3 innings at the Rookie, Single-A and Double-A levels since 2017. He has compiled 241 strikeouts and 69 walks.

Colombia named Rio to its roster in January.

“That was his dad’s wish from his heart,” Miranda told Buchanon.

Rio’s mother Sandi cheered him on, taking film of him from the stands Tuesday with a broad smile.

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Ian Kinsler, a native Tucsonan who graduated from CDO in 2000, is managing a baseball team for the first time with Israel in the World Baseball Classic (Israel photo)

CDO graduate Ian Kinsler, a member of the Dorados’ 1997 and 2000 state championship teams, is in the World Baseball Classic but he’s in Miami for Pool D play. Pool C is taking place in Phoenix.

Kinsler is managing Israel’s team after playing for the country in international competition.

He played for United States’ 2017 WBC championship team before becoming an Israeli citizen in 2020 in order to play in the Olympics. He is making his managerial debut for Israel in the WBC.

His father Howard, who is Jewish, grew up in the Bronx and moved to Tucson to play basketball for the freshman team at Arizona in the mid-1970s.

His studies in psychology and criminal justice led the elder Kinsler to a career in corrections and to an eventual post as warden at the maximum-security Wilmot Prison.

Ian’s mother Kathy was a longtime employee at Pima County.

“My dad grew up in New York, and I grew up in Tucson, so complete opposite sides of the country,” Ian said in a recent WBC press conference in Miami. “So I would meet my dad’s side of the family every once in a while. It was once every five, 10 years, something like that.

“We celebrated Hanukkah growing up, a little bit of Passover every once in a while. My mom was, Catholic, so it was Christmas and Easter. No real religion in our house growing up. So having to go to Israel and gain my citizenship was very eye opening. Just getting all the information and everything that country has to offer and the historical background of the Jewish people really and the country of Israel.

“It just brings you closer. You just learn more and more about yourself and your family and how and why all of this is happening. I don’t think I even really know still, but the more you learn, the closer you feel for sure.”

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Monday night at Chase Field was anti-climatic after Mexico’s 11-5 win over the U.S. in front of a packed Chase Field.

The stadium was about 60 percent full (29,621 in attendance) for the U.S.’s 12-1 win in seven innings over Canada.

I actually heard Braves and Astros fans argue with each other about who was better and their friends eventually had to separate them. Maybe it was the beer talking.

The U.S. and Mexico fans the night before were for the most part civil with each other despite sitting among each other.

Beneath me where I’m sitting in centerfield in the auxiliary press area, a couple of U.S. fans went to a section with many Mexican fans and started chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” while waving the American flag.

The Mexican fans chanted “Me-xi-co! Me-xi-co!” in response. Some of the fans shouted, “Who’s your daddy?” to the American fans because of the lopsided score. Both groups eventually began to laugh and then they shook hands.

Can’t we all laugh like that in times of confrontation?

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Due to the shortened game with the U.S. winning in seven innings on Monday night, I was hopeful of getting back to Tucson by 11:30 p.m. after leaving the stadium at around 10. I arrived back after 1 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday night.

No such luck for the early return Monday.

Road renovation a few miles south of Phoenix near Riggs Road delayed traffic for almost an hour. I arrived home at 12:30.

Tucsonans driving to the WBC on Wednesday for the final day of games at Chase Field keep in mind of that delay, unless you take an alternate route like I may do.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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