Former Arizona Diamondbacks broadcaster and first baseman Mark Grace started his stint in Tent City this week, serving his time after being arrested twice in a 15 month span for DUI offenses. Tent City is a very different environment for a baseball star who recorded over 2,400 hits in his career with more than 500 doubles.
An environment that is familiar to Grace is the baseball diamond, and that's where you'll find him from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. every day for the next four months, thanks to the Diamondbacks organization.
"I love it," said manager Kirk Gibson when asked about the addition of Grace to the coaching staff. "I called [general manager Kevin Towers] one day and said I'd like to invite Gracie to spring training. Obviously teammates need teammates sometimes and it's just how I felt about it."
After Grace's second DUI arrest became public last August, the team relieved him of his broadcasting duties, and when the season wrapped up they decided not to renew his contract.
"We continued to talk as an organization what would be best for him and with his situation," Gibson said Tuesday at Salt River Fields. "You know he has a lot of knowledge and wisdom. He's been in the game a long time and he's got a great sense of humor so we felt he had something to add."
Team president Derrick Hall felt the same way as Gibson. He said they wanted Mark back in the organization and thought he could have a positive influence on the young players, saying Grace is willing to talk to them about the "rights and wrongs" off the field.
Grace will spend all of spring training with the major league club but also shift over and work with the minor leaguers. Gibson says he will learn the way things work from the bottom up.
"Sky's the limit. You know he's got a great opportunity and I think he's got a great gift. He knows he's got to clean his act up," said Gibson. "I talk to him about it all the time. I think he learned a lesson before but I think this is a whole different lesson."
A lot of organizations invite former players back to help out as assistant coaches or minor league coaches, but this case is a little different. Gibson had no problem acknowledging that this is also about helping out a friend in need.
"His friends are there for him, that's the way I look at it," he said. "It's not like he doesn't have ability or doesn't have anything to add. So with those two things together it was a no-brainer."
During the four months that Grace will spend in Tent City, he is granted work release every day from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. because the Diamondbacks agreed to bring him on as an employee.
"He's good," Gibson said. "So far so good and if you asked him, he's got a good smile on his face here and he really appreciates being here; and my guess is that he's not looking forward to six o'clock."