Ben Rice ’22 selected by Yankees in MLB Draft

The Dartmouth catcher impressed scouts despite cancelled Ivy League seasons.

by Ben Korkowski | 7/23/21 2:05am

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Yankee Stadium will soon be the new home of Ben Rice ’22. 

by Devan Fink / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

On July 13, Ben Rice ’22 — a catcher for the Dartmouth baseball team — was selected by the New York Yankees with the 363rd overall pick in the 12th round of the MLB draft. A baseball player since his youth, Rice only competed for Dartmouth during his freshman spring due to the Ivy League’s decision to cancel the past two spring seasons because of COVID-19. Despite a short college career, Rice was able to showcase his skills during his freshman season as well as two summer leagues: the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, where he earned the MVP award playing for the Worcester Bravehearts in 2020, and the prestigious Cape Cod League, where he briefly played for the Cotuit Kettleers.

Rice’s one true season as a Dartmouth athlete still saw him leave an impressive mark, posting a season batting average of .278 as well as six multi-hit games, 11 RBIs and one home run. 

“Ben is a very hard worker,” fellow team member and pitcher Nathan Skinner ’22 said. “He’s one of the guys that takes no days off and works out a bunch. He just loves playing baseball, and it’s definitely paid off.” 

“We started the [2019] season with some other good players at the catching position, but the more we practiced and competed, Ben’s stock continued to rise,” head coach Bob Whalen added. “Ben’s just one of those kids that wants to be good at everything he does.” 

With the emergence of COVID-19 and the College’s protocols largely disrupting the baseball team’s last two seasons, Rice elected to spend his terms at home in Cohasset, Massachusetts, feeling that being closer to Boston would allow him to train more freely and provide better exposure to scouts. 

“A lot of my training was just hitting with my dad every single day, attending catching lessons and just getting reps however I could,” Rice said. 

The cancellation of the past two Ivy League spring seasons also meant that the majority of his playing time was limited to the summer leagues. 

“Every single conference except the Ivy League that was Division I had some sort of season in 2021: some did conference-only schedules and many just had updated COVID-19 protocols.” Rice said. “So really, getting any kind of baseball in for me was really big, especially if I wanted to have a professional opportunity the following year.”

“Most of the professional scouts use the spring season as a way to evaluate players, and without being able to do that due to COVID-19, they placed more emphasis on the summer leagues,” Whalen added. “It therefore was in Ben’s best interest to go out and play well, and he certainly did that.” 

During the summer of 2020, Rice established himself in the Futures League, playing for the Worcester Bravehearts. Over the span of 43 games, Rice hit .350, with 27 RBIs and 11 home runs. These impressive stats not only put him on the radar of many scouts, but also saw him win the league’s MVP award. 

“If players are talented enough, it doesn’t matter where they go — the scouts will find them,” varsity athletic communication director Rick Bender said. “And certainly, Ben has found that to be the case. Even with just one full season of college ball under his belt, he was able to showcase his abilities.”

Reflecting back on draft day, Rice noted how fast things happened. 

“As the Yankees’ turn was coming up, I knew they had been interested in me, so I thought to myself, ‘Alright, I feel like I would have gotten a phone call from them by now. There’s no way this is happening,’” Rice said. “And then my dad and I saw my name pop up on the screen and we started to freak out. It was just a dream come true, the culmination of everything I’ve worked for.”  

Rice’s fellow teammates couldn’t be happier for him. 

“Everyone’s really excited. We all think he’s going to do a great job. He’s a very hard worker, and I think he will hold up well in his new environment,” Skinner said. 

Since signing on the same day as the draft, Rice has traveled to the Yankees’ training facility in Tampa Bay to begin his professional career. 

“They’re taking it pretty slow with me and the other draft picks,” Rice said. “It’s basically training on a daily basis, but it’s all baseball so I love it,”

When asked what he will most miss about his time at Dartmouth, Rice remarked on his friends and the opportunity to complete his degree. 

“I am obviously going to stay in touch with my Dartmouth teammates every single day, but I am definitely going to miss them,” Rice said. “When you’re at school, you’re spending every single day with your teammates, eating meals and living together. Not getting to have these last two seasons together has been disappointing.” 

From a classroom standpoint, Rice explained that he still hopes to find a way to complete his psychology degree over the next few years, noting that the Yankees will pay his tuition if he chooses to finish his degree.

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