After four successful seasons of baseball for the Science Hill Hilltoppers, Rice went on to play four years at Western Kentucky as a catcher for the WKU Hilltoppers. Now he’ll get an even better view of a different Hill, as Rice recently started a one-year clerkship at the United States Supreme Court, just across the street from Capitol Hill.
Rice’s road to Washington, D.C., wasn’t a quick trip; it took him from a professional baseball career with the Tampa Bay Rays farm system to law school at the University of California in Berkeley. But his journey started decades ago in the classrooms of Johnson City Schools.
“From Towne Acres to Science Hill, I was surrounded by talented, dedicated teachers who challenged us to learn and inspired us to dream,” Rice said in June, before he started his clerkship. “Both in athletics and in the classroom, we were encouraged to set lofty goals and provided the support necessary to reach those goals. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from such amazing teachers, coaches, administrators and staff.”
After Rice’s junior season at Western Kentucky he was selected by the New York Yankees with the final pick in the 50th round of the 2010 amateur draft. Rice did not sign and instead returned to Western Kentucky for his senior season, setting WKU all-time records for hits (309) and RBIs (223). He also graduated summa cum laude and was named the 2011 Capital One Academic All-American of the Year.
Following his senior season, Rice was drafted by the Tampa Bay in the ninth round. After two years of baseball in the minor leagues, which included a selection in 2012 as a Midwest League All-Star, Rice hung up the spikes in order to pursue a law degree from Cal.
Success followed Rice off the field, as he graduated first in his class from Cal. That helped him earn a clerkship for Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
While serving under Ikuta, Rice said it was nice to be part of such a great team and that he learned a lot of valuable things. He also picked up the respect of Ikuta.
“Appellate judges like to brag about their former clerks, and I expect to have many opportunities to brag about Matt in years to come,” Ikuta said in an article posted to the Berkeley Law webpage. “I’m confident that Matt’s off-the-charts legal skills will make him an outstanding asset for Justice (Clarence) Thomas.”
While Rice isn’t sure what he will do after his clerkship ends, there is no doubt that the Supreme Court clerkship will open doors. Currently, five of the current Supreme Court justices once served in the role of Supreme Court clerk. Right now, Rice said he will enjoy the ride of his latest venture and his new role as a father, as he and his wife, Emily, recently welcomed their little girl Teegan.
Even through all of his different paths, Rice said the foundation of baseball is something that he has always been able to lean on.
“I think there are a number of parallels that can be drawn between athletics and success in the law — the most important being that consistent effort and a team-based focus lead to quality results,” Rice said in a previous interview.
But one thing has never changed, Rice said, “I am a Topper for life.”