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In midst of jail term, Grace enjoying his new job

Ex-Cubs, D-backs first baseman now Arizona's Rookie League hitting coach

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Monday was a big day for Mark Grace. It's been one month since the former Cubs and D-backs first baseman began serving a four-month jail term after being charged with four counts of aggravated DUI last August.

He didn't exactly celebrate the milestone. Grace was busy throwing batting practice to some D-backs Minor Leaguers, which is part of his new gig. He is picked up by a driver at 6 a.m. every day and has to return by 6 p.m. each night, which he spends at Tent City.

A four-time Gold Glove first baseman, who starred for the Cubs from 1988-2000, Grace will be a hitting coach for the D-backs' Arizona Rookie League team this summer. He's back in baseball, sort of.

At night, he's back in jail. He spends each night in a tent that sleeps 20 people. There's no television.

"Basically, I sleep there," Grace said Monday. "It's cold. It's tents. When you get home, set your thermostat to about 42 degrees and see if you sleep well."

That's the price he has to pay after being arrested for a second DUI in a 15-month span. He's got some interesting tentmates.

"The work release area is basically DUI offenders and fellows who haven't paid child support," he said. "There are no hardened criminals. Honestly, there's all walks of life in there. I've been sharing a tent with an X-ray technician and another guy who is into prosthetics. There also are some guys who aren't as successful, that's for sure. It's a mix of anyone from 21 years old to where there's been a couple 78-year-olds in there.

"Everybody's cool to each other -- the guards are all cool," he said. "We're just in there doing what the judge told us to do."

When his sentence ends, he's free. Grace was dismissed from his job as the D-backs' television color analyst, but the team front office has taken care of him. Grace played three seasons in Arizona, and was a hero on the 2001 World Series championship team.

"I'm not going to let them down," Grace said of the D-backs. "Honestly, I've kind of always wanted to wear this uniform again. You get pigeon-holed into the broadcasting thing. It was good and I enjoyed it. The fans liked it -- I'm not going to sit here and say I was good at it, but I must have been pretty good at it.

"I'm not going to say the broadcasting is over with, per se," he said. "I am enjoying the [heck] out of this. Working with big leaguers is one thing, but now I'm working with young men who need to be coached and need to be taught things. Big leaguers pretty much know what to do by the time they get there. These guys, stuff that I took for granted, from these 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds, they don't know it yet. It's pretty refreshing and it's work."

Grace, 48, has not deflected any blame for what happened; he's taken full responsibility for what he did.

"The Diamondbacks didn't do anything wrong," he said. "The cop didn't screw me, the judge didn't screw me, the prosecutor didn't screw me. It's a lesson learned, especially out here. You can sit here and make all the excuses you want, but at the end of the day, it's my fault and I did it, and I'm going to pay my debt to the state of Arizona and then I'm done with it.

"It'll never happen again -- I can promise you it'll never happen again," he said. "If it happens again, I'm going to prison for two years and my children deserve better than that and my friends deserve better than that.

"I'm going to be better for it. I will be better for it. It [stinks]. I'm not going to kid you, it [stinks], but I'm a big boy and I always try to teach my kids accountability. I have to be accountable, too, and accept the fact that I made a bad decision and paying the price for it."

Grace has two sons, Jackson, 12, and Preston, 9. They seem to have inherited his sense of humor.

"I said, 'Well, I've got to go, guys,' and my 9-year-old said, 'Where? Back to the slammer?'" Grace said. "They know it, and they get it and they understand. I'm setting a bad yet good example for them that if you break the law, you pay the price. Don't do what dad did."

Even though he could laugh and he joked with the D-backs' Minor Leaguers during Monday's workout, the bottom line is that he is paying a price for his actions. Preston is playing on a Little League team of 10-12-year-olds, and his team recently faced Jackson's. Grace couldn't watch because the game was played at night.

"That's a very sad thing," Grace said. "The good thing is I won't miss any of their birthdays or any of that stuff. I'll get through this, I'll get through this. I'll be fine."

It's sunny and warm on the backfields at Arizona's complex. In a few hours, after lunch and an afternoon game, Grace will be back at Tent City, which is about two miles south of downtown Phoenix. He doesn't get any special treatment.

"Some guys are in their for 24 hours, some guys are in there for 48 hours," Grace said. "I'm an old veteran there now. I have my one-month anniversary."

Only three more months to go.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["spring_training" ] }
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