By Dave Dyer
---- — For much of the last month, the weather has been cloudy and gloomy, but it’s been far from a gloomy summer for Groveland’s Zach Rice.
The recent St. John’s Prep graduate has been beaming with enthusiasm when it comes to his experience with the Newburyport Post 150 American Legion team.
Rice was a member of an ultra-talented Prep team that was ranked first in Eastern Mass. for most of the season and finished with a glittering 22-2 record. But he spent much of his time on the bench watching others perform, even more so than his junior year.
“It was disappointing, especially my junior year — a lot of kids thought they should have been playing,” said Rice. “This year the team did so well, you can’t complain, but you still want to play.”
That’s a big reason why Rice is happy to be the starting second baseman and usual No. 2 hitter for Post 150, which ended the weekend with a 12-5-1 record.
“It (not playing as much in the spring) made me more anxious to play my best and have a good summer playing,” said Rice. “The competition is good and I’m having a lot of fun.”
In past summers, Rice has played for AAU and Showcase teams but, with urging from good friend and Pentucket grad Josh Creamer and manager Mike Quinn, he switched to Legion ball. It’s worked out perfectly.
“This is my last summer before college and I didn’t want to travel as much before college,” said Rice, who went to Pentucket Middle School before the Prep. “It’s worked out really well. I love playing for this team. Everyone’s supportive, it’s a good group of guys and it’s a lot more fun. I’m really enjoying it.”
His performance on the field reflects that. He’s hitting a misleading .279 with a .406 on-base percentage and been invaluable in the field wherever he plays.
“He’s an excellent utility player because he can play anywhere,” said Post 150 coach Tim Southall. “He’s played for us in the outfield and done a nice job in addition to at second base. Plus, he’s a great character guy who fits right in with the team.”
Rice wants to use a strong performance during the summer as a springboard to a collegiate career. He’s headed to UMass Amherst, where he has high hopes of making the team as a walk-on.
“I have a good idea of the class coming in and the talent I’ll be up against, but I’m looking forward to it,” said Rice. “I’ve talked to the coach and I know I’ll get an opportunity to prove myself.”
That, after all, is what Rice has been doing this summer.