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For Grace, unusual routine amid second chance

For Grace, unusual routine amid second chance play video for For Grace, unusual routine amid second chance

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mark Grace reported for work at the D-backs' Spring Training complex on Tuesday morning.

He donned a D-backs uniform and spent the day working in the batting cage with the organization's hitters.

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"He's got a big smile on his face," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He really appreciates being here, and my guess is he's not looking forward to 6 p.m."

That's because from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m., Grace is an inmate in the Arizona Penal System, serving a four-month sentence after two DUI offenses in a span of 15 months. The former All-Star first baseman spends his nights in what is known as Tent City, where keeping warm during the cold Arizona nights is a challenge.

After his second DUI arrest became public last August, the team removed Grace as analyst on its television broadcasts. Following the season, his contract was not renewed.

"We certainly didn't need Mark to be in such a public eye and to be a face or voice for the organization after that," team president and CEO Derrick Hall said.

However, the organization was not willing to cast aside someone who played on its 2001 World Series championship team and had been its broadcaster since 2004. So Grace was offered a coaching position, which made him eligible for a work-release program.

"To me, he has contributed so much to the organization through the years that there's no way we feel we can turn our back on him through this," Hall said. "He's been a very stand-up guy through this; he's been very accountable. I've been really proud of his public statements and the fact that he wants to educate our players. He can be an asset in that role as well."

Gibson said he called general manager Kevin Towers this winter with the idea of bringing Grace to Spring Training and utilizing the knowledge of a man who had more hits during the 1990s than any other player in baseball.

"He's got a lot of knowledge and wisdom, he's been in the game a long time and he's got a great sense of humor," Gibson said. "We felt like he had something to add."

Grace will be in big league camp until the end of the month, at which point he will shift over to Minor League camp.

"He'll get integrated into the Minor League system and try to understand and learn from the bottom up," Gibson said. "The sky's the limit. I think he's got a great opportunity; he's got a great gift. He knows he's got to clean his act up. We've talked to him, I've talked to him about it all the time. I think he learned a lesson before, but this is a whole different lesson."

Grace is looking at the changes in his life as a chance to pursue a new career path. Coaching is something he thought he would explore right after his career ended, but the broadcasting opportunity was one he could not pass up.

"I'm stoked -- I'm loving it," Grace said of work this spring. "Since the day I retired, it's always been something that I've sought. I ended up doing the broadcasting thing, and that worked out really well. For some of us, though, a uniform just feels right. The broadcasting thing was something I enjoyed doing and something I felt I was pretty good at and someone that the people enjoyed. But because of obvious circumstances, I'm not the broadcaster anymore, but that these guys gave me this opportunity is a godsend. The last thing I'm going to do now is let anybody down, with the opportunity they've given me."

Grace is slated to continue his work during extended Spring Training, and then he will help the team's Arizona League hitters once that season starts in midsummer.

There's also a chance Grace will go to some of the team's Minor League affiliates once his prison term is over.

"It's my goal now to instruct and try to make young men better," Grace said. "I'm going to do anything I possibly can from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then once I've pushed through everything, then I can dedicate 24/7 to it."

Off the field, Grace hopes that serving his sentence will wind up leading to his growth as a person.

"It's about what you've heard -- it's not fun, obviously," Grace said of Tent City. "But it's something where I knew this day was coming. It's come, and it will be over before we know it, and then I will never have to deal with this kind of thing ever again. I'm going to keep my chin up and be a man about it. Life is OK. After this, if it makes me a better friend and a better employee, then it's worth it."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }