Catching up with Mark Grace

(Photo by Barry Gossage/Arizona Diamondbacks)

By Josh Greene

He’s been a part of the D-backs’ biggest moments since 2001, and for the last few years he hasn’t even had to pick up a bat or glove to do it.

After racking up a .303 lifetime average to go along with 2,445 hits and 1,146 RBI over 16 years in the Majors, Mark Grace has been a mainstay in the broadcast booth since he announced his retirement as a player following the 2003 sea- son. Working color commentary for televised D-backs games on FOX Sports Arizona and FOX Saturday Baseball, the former first baseman quickly found a new perspective on the game once he transitioned to his role behind the mic in 2004.

“The game looks really easy up here,” the former three- time All-Star said. “It’s the best seat in the house. Balls don’t look like they’re hit all that hard. Pitches don’t look like they’re thrown all that hard. Guys don’t look like they are running all that fast. You have to remind yourself that it’s all really, really difficult.

“I feel like I know more baseball than just anybody I’ve ever met, and I really like bringing that knowledge to fans. That’s my job, and I enjoy doing it.”

A self-professed stickler for mental mistakes on the field, the former four-time Gold Glove Award winner is not afraid to call out any player during a telecast – home team or not.

“The only time I criticize is when it’s a mental mistake,” Grace said. “A guy can strike out – I did that hundreds of times – but missing a cutoff man or baserunning mistakes, I won’t criticize physical mistakes, but mental mistakes I don’t condone.

“But before you criticize you have to remind yourself, ‘You know, Mark, you made those same mistakes. You popped up with the bases loaded. You’ve hit into double plays in the ninth inning. You struck out in huge situations. You made errors.’ Up here, you have to remind yourself this game is tough. It’s difficult. These are the greatest players in the world.”

A pivotal member of the 2001 World Championship club, Grace said that becoming a broadcaster keeps him involved in the game he loves and also provides him a literal voice when it comes to discussing the ins and outs of baseball.

“I’m still in the game, and I love this game,” he said. “It was the competition that made me tick as a player. Now,
these guys today are so big and so strong. The game is dif- ferent. I like taking people back to my era and comparing it to this one. These guys are better … I’ve still never seen a player better than Barry Bonds … but they are just so talented and play the game at such a high level. It’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to talk about.”

Grace doesn’t pontificate on the what ifs … What if the D-backs didn’t pursue him in the winter of 2000/01, what if he missed out on the 2001 World Championship run, or what if he completely left baseball after his playing days…Instead, he’d rather talk about what a ride it’s been.

“I thank God for this organization,” Grace said. “I’m extremely loyal, and I will be until they tell me to take a hike. They reached out to me after the Cubs let me go, and I got a World Championship here. I’ll always admire and always love (former Chairman & CEO) Jerry Colangelo, (former President) Rich Dozer and (former Senior Vice President & GM) Joe Ga- ragiola Jr. and today’s regime with (President & Chief Execu- tive Officer) Derrick Hall and (Managing General Partner) Ken Kendrick. They’ve kept me around, and I owe so much to this organization. I can’t imagine a better last 10 years.”

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