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Grace welcomes 2nd chance

Grace

– One year after spending his nights in the local jail known as Tent City, Mark Grace is enjoying the next chapter in his life.

People make mistakes, and sometimes they even make the same one over again.

That’s what happened to Grace, who lost his job as the Diamondbacks’ TV analyst in 2012 after his second DWI arrest.

But after pleading guilty and spending four months in jail on a work-release program, Grace returned to the D’backs’ organization and reports to Oregon in June to begin his new stint as hitting coach of the Class A Hillsboro Hops.

“The good thing is it’s over with,” Grace said Thursday before the D’backs-Mariners game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. “I’ve paid my debt to society, I’ve paid my debt to the people of Arizona and I’ve paid my debt to myself.

“It might be a disguised blessing. It got me an opportunity to get back on the field. Thank God for the Diamondbacks for having my back on this and offering me the opportunity. Now it’s a whole new baseball life again. It’s awesome.”

Hillsboro is a short-season team in Oregon, about 20 miles from Portland, that plays in the Northwest League.

The season begins June 13 with Grace joining manager J.R. House and pitching coach Doug Drabek on the Hops’ staff.

Diamondbacks executive Kevin Towers, one of the last of the dying breed of old-school general managers, was responsible for keeping Grace in the organization. Hillsboro may be a low rung on the baseball ladder, but Grace is hoping to use it as a stepping-stone to becoming a major league coach.

Grace stayed in the Maricopa County jail from mid-February through mid-June 2013, arriving at 6 p.m. and leaving at 6 a.m. to work with D’backs prospects.

During his sentence, Grace said he wasn’t concerned about the possibility of never returning to baseball.

“I wasn’t worried about baseball or coaching,” he said. “I was worried about my personal life – being a father, being a friend, being just better all around, taking my punishment and owning up to it.

“Now I can speak from experience about the bad things that can happen if you get behind the wheel after you have had a couple. Thankfully, nobody got hurt, didn’t damage any property. So in my heart at least there is no guilt about (injuring someone). The rest is over with and taken care of.”

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