- Associated Press - Friday, October 21, 2011

ARLINGTON, TEXAS (AP) - When Mike Napoli was playing for the other team, Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler had a serious dislike for him.

Sure, a lot of that had to do with Napoli playing for a division opponent the past five years before he became part of a World Series team in Texas.

There was also the way Napoli flipped his bat after hitting a home run or how the top button of his Angels jersey was often undone.

“I would never tell you last year I would probably enjoy having him in the clubhouse,” Kinsler said. “You never know what his personality is until you meet a guy, but as far as the way he plays and uniform he wears, there’s certain things that bothered me.”

Not until Napoli joined the Rangers _ after being traded twice in five days last winter _ and had a breakout season to help Texas reach its second consecutive World Series.

“It’s pretty simple to get along with him, and he’s just a great guy to have around,” Kinsler said.

“Yeah, I didn’t like them, either,” Napoli said. “That’s just part of the sport-hate thing. You don’t know people. Just coming over here, it’s been amazing.”

Watching Texas from the opposite side, Napoli saw a team that had a lot of fun and enjoyed the game. He also saw the Los Angeles Angels replaced as AL West champions by the Rangers last year when they went to their first World Series.

Napoli has fit right in with the loaded lineup for Texas, which plays the next three games of the World Series at home after a 2-1 victory at St. Louis in Game 2 evened the series at a game a piece. Game 3 is Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark.

“I knew coming over here was going to be fun,” Napoli said. “I knew they had a great core of players and they were a winning ballclub, so I was excited to come over here and be part of it.”

Texas fans have taken to chanting “Nap-o-li!, Nap-o-li!” when the former rival comes to bat at home during the playoffs. It worked the first time they did it in Game 2 of the AL division series, when Napoli kept fouling off pitches before hitting a tying two-run single in the rally that gave the Rangers their first victory over Tampa Bay.

“It was pretty nuts, unexpected,” he said. “It was crazy, but now I like it…. I like hearing it. It’s definitely a cool experience.”

Like he did in the season opener for Texas nearly seven months ago, Napoli also homered in his first World Series game for the Rangers on Wednesday night.

The catcher has endured two bone-jarring collisions at the plate in the playoffs, including the eighth inning in Game 4 of the AL championship series in Detroit when Miguel Cabrera tried to bowl over him for the tiebreaking run. Napoli held on, then three innings later had a go-ahead RBI single before scoring on Nelson Cruz’s second 11th-inning homer of that series.

“I call him a dirt bag,” manager Ron Washington said. “He’s a gamer, and he tries to do whatever it takes to help his team win.”

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