As the PawSox 2011 Hot Stove event unfolded at McCoy Stadium earlier this month, the most frequently asked question I heard as the fans lined up for player autographs, was asked of 24 year old rightrhander, Jason Rice. The affable, 24 year old answered patiently and nicely dozens of times as he was continually queried if he was related to another former PawSox standout, Hall of Famer, Jim Rice. “No” he’d smile, “I’m not.” Rice understands the question and he doesn’t seem to mind. “Ya know, it’s funny. I get it a lot. With the same last name and everything…I think it’s pretty cool to be asked that.”
Not only aren’t they related, they have never met. Jason hopes that changes in February in Fort Myers. “I hope to meet him this year at Spring Training. Hopefully, I’ll get called up to a Big League game and get a chance to meet him. I know he’s with the Big Leaguers in Spring Training and does a lot with the organization. We’ll see what happens.” (For the record, Jason is not related to Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, either.)
In 2010, Rice, a rule 5 guy who came over from the White Sox in 2008, was the closer for the Double A Portland Sea Dogs. Rice notched 13 saves in 48 appearances (all in relief) to earn a third place tie in the Red Sox minor league system in that department. In 2009, at Salem, Rice dominated with a 2.44 ERA in 41 games, allowing just 38 hits in 70 innings, striking out 94. Jason pitched under Manager Arnie Beyeler last season and hopes to do so again, this time at McCoy. “Arnie was our skipper last year and he got promoted , so congratulations to him. The biggest thing is, you’ve got to work hard and put your time in. I’ll go to Spring Training and try my best. I will fight for a job.”
Jason Rice took part in the Red Sox rookie development program in January. It was his first trip to Boston, although he lamented coming close to playing at Fenway Park in 2010. “I had dreamt of what the field looks like and how it would feel to play there. When I got “fived” here, I went to High A, and I was pretty upset that Lowell went there and got to play in Futures at Fenway. I had missed it by a year. I was, like, ‘Darn it!’, Oh well.” If it makes Jason feel any better, the PawSox are scheduled to be in the Futures at Fenway in 2011 on August 20, against Syracuse.
Maybe, by then, Jason Rice will have met Jim Rice.