Ben Rice ’22 dominates summer league, secures MVP

by Benjamin Ashley | 9/25/20 2:00am

Source: Courtesy of Ben Rice

After a breakout summer in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, catcher Ben Rice ’22 earned Most Valuable Player honors and was named to the All-Futures-League First Team. Rice led the summer league with 11 home runs and a 1.150 OPS while posting an impressive .350 batting average, with 27 RBIs in just 35 games. Rice also helped lead the Worcester Bravehearts to the best regular-season record in the Futures League. 

While Rice was excited to receive the MVP award, he said he was more focused on the team’s success in his second year playing for the Bravehearts. He was grateful for the ability to play the entire season after Dartmouth’s spring season was canceled.

“I was happy that we had such a long season … [and] got to the championship again,” Rice said. “... Getting the award put a little exclamation point on it, but at the end of the day I was just happy that we got the season in and happy to get to play every day.”

Rice said that his success stemmed from hard work off the field before play restarted. While quarantining, Rice continued hitting every day with his father, and once it became safe, he took live at-bats whenever possible. This training allowed him to stay ready once the season finally began on July 2. 

Justin Murray ’22, a teammate of Rice with both the Big Green and the Bravehearts, noted how happy he was to see Rice’s success.

“It was a ton of fun to watch him be so successful,” Murray said. “I lived with him [and] knew the work he put in behind the scenes that nobody else got to see … so I loved seeing it pay off for him.”

Head Dartmouth baseball coach Bob Whalen said he was also excited to see the success of a highly motivated athlete like Rice.

“We’re just happy for him,” Whalen said. “We’re very proud of him because you like to see really good young people, particularly ones that work as hard as he does ... have success.”

While Rice ultimately played close to a full season in the Futures League after a month-long delay due to COVID-19, he said that he had been unsure if the season would occur at all, particularly after other regional summer leagues were canceled. 

“In the back of my mind … I was constantly [thinking]: ‘I wonder how we’re actually going to pull this season off. I wonder if we’re actually going to be able to do this,’” Rice said. “But, fortunately enough, we ended up having a season, and I think I came into it pretty prepared.”

In an effort to limit the risks of playing during the pandemic, the Futures League enacted various protocols, including temperature screening, masks and social distancing in the dugout, among other rules. Additionally, with their normal home stadium at the College of the Holy Cross closed, the Bravehearts were forced to play at a different field than normal, giving them a relative disadvantage. But Rice said that he was content with the protocols, as they allowed him to return to playing the sport he loves. 

“We’re just there to have fun and get to play baseball,” Rice said. “We were all so pumped that we were able to [play], so we were just going to do whatever they told us to make sure that we weren’t going to get the season cut short for whatever reason.”

One of Rice’s favorite parts of the Futures League was something that he had never done before: compete in a home run derby to win a game. In the Futures League, ties after the 10th inning are broken by a home run derby rather than long, extra-inning games. 

Rice’s power made him a clear selection to represent his team in its three home run derbies, and he led the Bravehearts to victory in each one of them, enjoying the abnormal rule with his teammates. 

Murray described the confidence he and his teammates had in Rice when he stepped up to the plate for a home run derby.

“Basically, if it went to a home run derby, [Rice] was essentially going to win it,” Murray said. “It was an automatic win for the team.”

Although Rice had a lot of fun with the home run derbies, he is more focused on bringing his success in the Futures League back to Dartmouth. The team is currently hoping and preparing for the season to proceed as planned, and Rice is motivated to fight for a championship.

“We want to win an Ivy championship,” Rice said. “… We’re going to hold ourselves to a high standard, and we’re going to compete as hard as we can.”

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