Athlete of the Week: Garrett Rice, Willard

The success of Willard baseball is built on more than just strikeouts and homeruns.

“I always tell kids if you work on being a better person, you’ll be a better player,” said Willard Head Coach Scott McGee

For a coach like McGee, it’s nice when the team’s best player does just that.

“Garrett’s always trying to be a better person, he’s a hard worker, and he’s one of our leaders for that reason,” McGee said.

Willard junior Garrett Rice is a team leader in other ways too.

He already has four homeruns and 20 runs batted in this season.

Not to mention the batting average just shy of .400

“You’re sitting there figuring how many hitters are you away from Garrett because you know he can change the game with one swing,” McGee said.

One swing in particular this year produced the most impressive number of all.

482. The distance measured in feet of Rice’s longest homerun this season.

That matches the longest homer hit in Major League Baseball this year.

For more perspective, that long ball would have landed in Big Mac Land at Busch Stadium.

“I think that I have a little bit more room with pop, I think I have a little bit left. You can always grow in pop, I feel like,” Rice said.

The Mizzou Tigers sure hope so.

Rice is committed to play for them in college.

That chance to play at the next level is why he says he’s determined to be more than just a power hitter.

“That’s been one of my main focuses since freshman year,” Rice said. “To play an infield position that’s not first and do it well.”

Rice has improved his agility to become a really good third baseman and even a pretty good shortstop.

He says he wants even more.

“Next year I’m going to play a little outfield too, I played this summer. I played some outfield,” Rice said.

It’s just another way Rice can help his team in ways you might not expect.

That even includes the basepaths, where he has 11 stolen bases.

“Having that key to steal bases I think is huge. For being a bigger guy, I have to show that I’m athletic and show that I can move,” Rice said.

Rice even pitches for the Tigers, leaving his coach just one way to sum up his game.

“Garrett is what I think all baseball players should strive to be,” McGee said.

That’s hard to argue.

After all, the numbers speak for themselves.

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