Some 2,100 miles west of Chicago, in Hillsboro, Ore., Mark Grace is starting his baseball life over, in a sense.
The former Cubs icon racked up more than 2,200 hits in his 13-year Chicago career, posting a .308 average and .832 OPS while winning four Gold Gloves.
After a three-year stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Grace hung up his spikes and began a career as a broadcaster. But he wound up losing his job as a Diamondbacks announcer in 2012 and spent four months in prison after being indicted on four felony counts in October 2012 following a pair of DUI arrests.
With his legal troubles in the rearview mirror, Arizona announced this spring they would be re-hiring Grace, but he won't be in the broadcast booth. Instead, the Diamondbacks enlisted in Grace's help as a hitting coach for the Hillsboro Hops in Oregon, a short-season Class A affiliate.
Grace's second chance in baseball begins this weekend when the Hops start their season.
"The most important thing is it's over with," Grace told CSNNW's Dwight Jaynes in a recent interview. "One thing you need to get over is you need to have an organization that believes in you. The Arizona Diamondbacks - Hillsboro Hops included - they've stuck with me. They've had my back through this thing.
"I'm a better person for this. I've grown to be a better human being, a better friend, a better father and a better employee. Things that happen, whether they're good or negative in your life, you can always make something out of it and you can always learn from it. I've certainly learned that it's not a real smart thing to do; it's a stupid thing to do.
"Fortunately, it's been over two years now. It's over with. I've paid my debts to the state of Arizona and society and now, hopefully, we're going to pay some debts to the rest of the Northwest League."
Grace said he's anxious to get back onto the field and compete. The 49-year-old admitted he hasn't been in the minor leagues since 1988, so this is something of a new experience for him.
"An old ballplayer, we love being in uniform and I get a chance to put a uniform on again," Grace said. "This is gonna be a great thing for me.
"There's that hunger, there's that fire that needs to be fed and the only thing that can feed it is not only personal success, but team success. Personal success for me will be if my hitters go out there and perform the way they're capable of doing. If they can show improvement and move their way up to a higher level next year, then I've had success."
Check out the rest of the interview from CSNNW here: