SOFTBALL: Cody Rice travels country playing ball and inspiring youth as member of Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team | TheUnion.com

SOFTBALL: Cody Rice travels country playing ball and inspiring youth as member of Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team

Cody Rice isn't defined by his amputated lower right leg. He's a military veteran, a husband, a talented ball player and so much more.

Rice wants young amputees to know they aren't defined by their perceived disabilities either.

"The big thing we always say is, 'life without limbs is limitless,'" said Rice, a retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant who is a current member of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team.

Rice has been a member of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team for the past four years and is especially proud of the work the team does with young amputees.

"We basically travel, play softball, inspire people and take donations in — most of which goes to our kids camps," said Rice, who looks forward to the kids camps every year.

"To me, that's the best time of the year," said Rice, who is originally from Newark, Ohio and currently lives in Grass Valley with his wife Shanna Rice. "The kids camp is so rewarding. These kids come in there and they are really shy… We try to break that shell, that barrier. At first they are real shy, but by the end they are hanging off of us and sending me snapchats and stuff… It's like a family now. We basically become a family of amputees. It's pretty cool."

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When the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team was first formed in 2011 it was a way for military veterans to come together and cope with the serious injuries incurred while serving their country.

"It was really just supposed to be a softball camp for military guys who just got out of the hospital and wanted to be around other guys like them," said Josh Wege, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal and member of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team. "At first it was about giving back to each other, making sure that every body was good mentally and physically… Over time, we started to realize that just by putting on our (prosthetic) legs or arms or whatever it is throughout the day, we are living, breathing examples of perseverance and we can be an inspiration to lots of people.

"This team allowed military vets the opportunity to serve beyond the military uniform."

Those are the reasons Rice, who lost his right leg below the knee when he stepped on a land mine while serving in Afghanistan in 2012, was drawn to the team.

"Most of us were combat injured, we've gone through some things normal people haven't and we get to talk those things through with each other. It's therapeutic," he said.

Rice has been a committed member of the team since 2014 and is considered a kids camp favorite.

"Cody embodies everything that is good about this team," said Wege. "If we had awards for the coaches, Cody would always be the favorite one. He's a helluva ball player too."

Wege added, "(Rice) knows what service is. He's addicted to it. He's embraced that role model position and doesn't take it lightly. And, when it's time to play ball, he buckles down and does what he has to do. He's super competitive and an all-around good guy."

Rice travels quite a bit with the team as it tours the country playing in exhibitions and tournaments, but noted the kids camps are what he always looks forward to.

"The biggest thing is the kids camp," he said. "Developing these great relationships with these kids that will last forever."

The 2018 Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team Kids Camp was held in New Hampshire in June. The team also held an Alumni Kids Camp in Missouri in late July.

Rice's charismatic nature and skill as a player earned him a trip to this year's MLB All Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game held at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. Rice was one of two representatives from the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, and he was not shy around the ESPN cameras. Rice could be seen shaking his head in disapproval after former MLB player Torii Hunter struck out in the slow-pitch exhibition.

"I couldn't believe a professional athlete was striking out in softball," he said with a laugh.

Rice also yucked it up with several different pitchers throughout the evening on his way to a two hit night with two runs scored.

He did come up short on a goal he set for himself, though.

"I was trying to hit one out of the stadium," he said.

The season is a long one for the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team with events scheduled from January through December. The team has events in Alabama, Minnesota and Michigan in September. They then have one event in Ohio in October, before heading west for an event in Mission Viejo, California Nov. 9-11.

Rice, who also plays softball locally in the Western Nevada County Slo-pitch Softball Association, added he would like to see the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team make a trip to Nevada County at some point in the future.

To learn more about the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team or donate to their mission visit woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.