"I just love to play the game," he said. "I just want to be a ballplayer, play hard and let people know that I enjoy playing and that's through my style of play. It's never really been about money for me. It's been about the joy of playing the game."
The negotiating process wasn't joyful for Kinsler, who admitted that he had resolved himself to thinking a deal would not get done. He let that show with the media on Opening Day as he expressed some frustration.
The sides met for the first time in early January and reached a deal just more than three months later. That doesn't mean it wasn't a priority for both sides. It just took extra time.
"It's always been a priority," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "But there's been other things that kept coming up. I'm glad we were able to put the deal together."
Kinsler's new deal begins in 2013 -- he is making $7 million this season. The club has an option for the 2018 season.
The deal puts Kinsler at the front and center of the core group of Rangers that will carry the franchise into the future, including pitchers Yu Darvish and Derek Holland and outfielder Nelson Cruz, who have each signed long-term deals since the end of last season.
"[Kinsler] is a very important player," said Michael Young, the senior member of the Rangers clubhouse. "He works very hard. It's nice to see hard work get rewarded. It's a great deal for Kins and a great deal for the team that he's going to be here for the next five years and that he's going to have second base locked down."
Kinsler has made an impact again as the Rangers' leadoff hitter early this season, reaching base in all five games entering Wednesday. He has two home runs, four RBIs and five runs scored. For his career he has a .275 batting average with 126 homers, 399 RBIs and 563 runs scored.
He posted 30 home runs and 32 stolen bases in 2011, the second season he had done so. Kinsler has 81 career home runs from the leadoff spot, double that of any other player in club history.
He has also excelled in the last two postseason with the team's highest batting average (.303) and the most walks (22), both franchise records.
Kinsler said the three-month negotiations weren't a distraction, but he had his doubts. He credited agent Jay Franklin, also one of his best friends, for discussing everything "openly and honestly" during the long process.
"Ultimately, it got done and the Rangers stepped up and did their part," Kinsler said. "And looking back, I probably would have liked to be a little further away from it, but it worked out in the end."
Assistant general manager Thad Levine was critical in the negotiations, Daniels said. The Rangers usually don't do contracts once the season starts, but the sides were able to continue talking during opening weekend before the deal was finally agreed upon Monday night.
"This press conference was a couple of months in the making," Daniels said.
In the end the Rangers retained one of their best players and one of their key guys in the community, Daniels said.
Kinsler came up in the Rangers' farm system, signed in 2003 by scout Mike Grouse after playing college baseball at Central Arizona Junior College, Arizona State and Missouri. Kinsler had a breakthrough 2004 season in the Minor Leagues, when he had 51 doubles. He played 120 games for the Rangers in 2006, and despite six stints on the disabled list, he has played in at least that many games for six seasons.
"We've seen him grow every year," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I remember when I first got here they were reacting to Ian like he had been here for five years. I said let him play and grow. He's a talented kid. The organization stepped out.
"Each year he gets better," Washington said. "Each year he learns something."
The Rangers don't need a "face of the franchise" like they might have in the past when Young signed a seven-year deal in 2007. They have made consecutive World Series appearances, and appear to have a team that can contend for years to come.
"There's definitely guys that people look up to in the clubhouse," Kinsler said, "And I would definitely like to be one of those guys. Hopefully my teammates see me as one of those guys. Basically it just comes down to winning and your passion for winning and hopefully people follow that.
"We got to the point 2009 where we felt like we can win and 2010 put us over that hump and gave us experience in the playoffs. And once we got that experience everyone in the clubhouse said: 'This is something we want to do every year.'"