Though this is his first season with the Los Angeles Angels organization, Arkansas Travelers pitching Coach Pat Rice is experiencing a homecoming of sorts in Little Rock. The 20-year minor league veteran coach pitched two years with the Arkansas Razorbacks, and he went to the 1985 College World Series. His major league career consisted of seven games in 1991 with the Seattle Mariners where he was 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA, and he ended his minor-league career with a 54-42 career record and a 4.38 ERA. Prior to joining the Angels organization, Rice was the pitching coach at San Francisco’s Triple-A Fresno for five years. He spent 13 years with the Mariners and was the minor league pitching coordinator for eight years.
What was it like playing for Norm DeBriyn (Arkansas’ head coach for 33 years)?
It was awesome and lots of fun. I had such a good time in college and learned a lot from Norm, Doug Clark (hitting coach) and Dave Jorn (pitching coach). From Norm and Doug, we knew what was expected and what to do to be ready to play. I learned more X’s and O’s from Dave. I probably instill some of what I learn from them to this day.
Why do you choose Arkansas?
I went to high school (Colorado Springs) with Jeff King (former Razorback player) and after junior college was looking for a place. He told me he was going to Arkansas. I called them, and Doug’s dad (Clark grew up in Colorado) knew me and gave me a recommendation. I was probably a better football player but was too little. Ken Hatfield had just gotten there from Colorado Springs and wanted me to try spring football. At that time, it was that whole Colorado thing and connection.
What was your Major League career like?
I signed as a free agent and played independent ball before signing with the Mariners. The Spring training before I went to the Big Leagues, they talked to me about coaching but things happened with players hurt and being traded, and I got to move up. It was like a Cinderella story. Getting there was the battle, and the reward was being there and like a light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted to be there longer and pitched exceptionally well, but unfortunately my arm didn’t let me.
Any superstitions or interesting things you did when you pitched?
I always dusted off the rubber before every inning. I don’t know why except that it was like having a clean slate. I also never took off my glove except to towel off. I also tried to beat the opponent’s last guy off the field to the mound, partly to speed up the game. I also always wore long sleeves, and one time it was 126 degrees.
Curveball and slider. I had good control. A lot of people had better stuff but not as good control.
When you heard you were coming to Little Rock what was your reaction?
I was really excited and thought how cool is that. Most people just looked at me when I said that. I’ve run into old friends, old roommates and ex-girlfriends.
Any desire to coach in the Big Leagues?
I’ve been close a couple of times but I don’t know if it is an ultimate goal. You can do more in the minor leagues, and guys are at different points in their careers. I fondly recall by minor league coaches and learned a lot from them.
What do you do in the off-season?
I do as much as I can with my four kids—18, 16, 14 and 10—and I like to play golf. I also run and around noon you can probably see me running around Little Rock.