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Fresno pitching coach Pat Rice keeps his roots in Colorado Springs

May 26, 2013 Updated: May 26, 2013 at 11:40 pm
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photo - The Sky Sox defeated Fresno 8-6 on the strength of a Matt McBride home run and 4 Grizzly errors. (Photo courtesy of Paat Kelly, PengoSports.com)
The Sky Sox defeated Fresno 8-6 on the strength of a Matt McBride home run and 4 Grizzly errors. (Photo courtesy of Paat Kelly, PengoSports.com) 

Pat Rice proudly watched two of his boys shag fly balls Saturday evening at Security Service Field and hang out in a Triple-A clubhouse.

It was a reminder that the tradeoff he makes by leaving Colorado Springs for half of each year to be the pitching coach for the Fresno Grizzlies is worth it.

"It's probably the only negative of my job," Rice said. "It is the only negative of my job. There's a give-and-get for them. They give me leaving; they get to know some of these guys."

Rice grew up in an Air Force family, moving around before settling in here and attending Air Academy. He later pitched at Arkansas and broke into professional baseball after a stint in an independent league. He briefly threw in the major leagues, making his major league debut for the Seattle Mariners with a start and victory at Yankee Stadium in 1991. His time in the majors lasted just over a month despite starting with 13 consecutive scoreless innings over his first four outings.

After Rice's playing career he met his wife, Debbie, also the product of a military family who had settled into Colorado Springs after a nomadic life. She was the sister of Rice's friend, Steve Bartolo, who had played football at Colorado State.

It is because of Debbie, Rice said, that he has built a successful career in coaching.

"You've got to have a really good wife who's willing to do it, which I do and makes things really nice," Rice said. "Otherwise I wouldn't be able to do it."

Rice has been employed in the Giants organization since 2008, at the Triple-A level since 2009. That means he leaves his Colorado Springs home at the beginning of spring training and doesn't return until the season ends in September - or later. His lone respites are the trips his family makes to see him in Fresno or the times the Grizzlies visit the Sky Sox, which they have been doing since opening a four-game series Friday.

While Rice admits life would be easier if he were to catch on with the Sky Sox, who have changed pitching coaches in each of the past three seasons, landing such a position isn't as easy as applying - which is forbidden under contract rules.

"Ultimately that would be neat," Rice said of a position with the Sky Sox. "But in that case I really don't have any choice. And I'm really happy with where I am. We've won two of the past three World Series."

Rice understandably feels a big part of that success, since it has been built so much on the strength of pitchers he has helped to influence during their climb to the majors.

The tradeoff to such a job, however, takes a constant toll. This year his two oldest sons - he has four children, ranging in age from a senior in high school to 9 - played varsity baseball for Liberty. His son Tony had a particularly strong season, batting .347 as a freshman.

Pat Rice witnesses those games through video highlights. That's the tradeoff, he understands. And that's why on those rare occasions like this weekend when he's able to see his family in person, watch them enjoy the kind of experiences reserved for children of professional players and coaches, he knows it's all worth it.

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