Dave Ploof to retire as coach of Rapid City's Post 22 baseball teamRAPID CITY — After 47 years, Dave Ploof has coached his last game for the Rapid City Post 22 baseball program. The most successful coach in the history of American Legion Baseball will retire on October 31.
By: Inside Dakota Sports, www.insidedakotasports.com
RAPID CITY — After 47 years, Dave Ploof has coached his last game for the Rapid City Post 22 baseball program.
The most successful coach in the history of American Legion Baseball will retire on October 31, 2011.
In the weeks following the 2011 season, the Board of Directors of the Post 22 baseball program, the assistant coaches, and Ploof engaged in a flurry of meetings, arm-twisting and, at times, acrimonious internal debates concerning Ploof’s leadership of the program. On Monday night, after weeks of negotiations, a final compromise was reached— Ploof will retire as the head coach of Post 22 and will serve as an ambassador and an advisor for the program for the 2012 season.
“As a coach you look at it and you say, ‘When are you going to retire?’ I looked at it after the first year,” Ploof told IDS Monday night. “You prepare for that day. I’ve had 47 great years of coaching Post 22 baseball and it has been a blast. We have outstanding athletes here and fans and it has been amazing.”
Ploof’s existing head-coaching contract expires on Oct. 31 and on Monday night the Board of Directors of Baseball Parents, Inc. (the governing board of the baseball program) voted unanimously against renewing his coaching contract. The board also voted to accept a finalized retirement plan. The president of Baseball Parents, Inc., Brian Chleborad, said that the new Post 22 head coach would be announced within the next 30 days.
“Dave has done a lot of wonderful things for this program, and we wish him the best.” Said Chleborad. “He’s taken the program to national prominence and everyone recognizes that. We have a great coaching staff that will continue the long standing tradition of Post 22 baseball and are looking internally to determine our new head coach.”
Ploof had numerous meetings with board members following the season and originally requested a three-year contract extension, which would have given him 50 years at the helm of the program. The board was scheduled to vote on Ploof’s contract at a formal meeting on Aug. 4, but instead voted to table further discussion of his retirement in an effort to craft a compromise that would pave the way for a new coach, and provide a detailed retirement and transition plan.
All involved parties — the board, the coaching staff, and Ploof—agreed upon the plan and Ploof signed off on the final terms on Monday.
According to the plan, Ploof will assist with fundraising projects and promotions for the program, including the purchase of a new bus. He will also assist the new head coach with player registration.
“I will continue with the program as the director of baseball operations, and I will enjoy that,” said Ploof. “You don’t build a program like we have in Rapid City by-yourself. We’ve had amazing fans and athletes. I pushed the kids hard and they achieved at the highest level. I would like to thank all the players that I have coached in the past, and I am looking forward to seeing the new players who are coming into the program as well.”
Ploof will relinquish his position on the Board of Directors of Baseball Parents, Inc.. He will receive a one-year contract, which can be extended on a yearly basis. Ploof will not have any on-field duties, nor control over player development.
“We went through the negotiation process, and we feel we came up with a successful resolution agreeable to all parties.” Said Chleborad of the final agreement.
Ploof’s record was the best in the nation. But internal sources disclosed to IDS that over the last few months a consensus has emerged that Post 22 baseball is no longer an elite Legion program, and needs to look to more contemporary teaching tools and younger coaching.
“The program has started to stagnate.” One source within the program told IDS. “He is isolated from the players. Discipline has declined. Post 22 cannot compete against elite teams in the region. Post 22 shouldn’t be struggling like it did in the state tournament. They just aren’t playing the kind of Post 22 baseball that Dave Ploof taught a decade ago.”
Speculation on Ploof’s successor has focused on assistant coach Mitch Messer and long time varsity assistant Rich Downs. Messer is currently the Post 22 Expos coach (the Post 22 junior varsity), and has been with the program for two seasons.
From 2006-2009, Messer led the Bozeman, Mont. American Legion program to a 201-75 record and the programs first ever state championship in 2007. He was named Montana American Legion Coach of the Year in 2007 and 2009. He also played for Post 22 from 1995-97, including back-to-back World Series teams. During the fall seasons he is also a coach for the Big Sky Baseball team, an elite traveling team based out of Montana.
Downs has been assistant coach for 29 years, and in recent years has been in charge of fundraising for the program. Downs spearheaded the recent application to Major League Baseball’s “Future” foundation for the $50,000 grant to renovate the backstop, dugout and field drainage. A Rapid City Stevens graduate, Downs was a tremendous catcher during his playing days with Post 22. In 1976, he earned South Dakota American Legion Player of the Year honors, leading his team to a state title. He would later serve six years as the head baseball and assistant football coach at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. He also spent a year as an assistant at Creighton, and four years with the baseball program at National American University in Rapid City.
Sources close to the program have speculated to IDS that Downs and Messer would seek a way to work together rather than compete for the top job at Post 22.
Ploof has been at the helm of Post 22 baseball for half a century, and has had authority over more than just the team on the field. The Post 22 baseball program has no general manager. Ploof’s departure now means that the board will have to create new organizational structures to replace five decades of Ploof’s control of the program. That includes relations with the business community, sponsors, the City, and even American Legion Post 22.
Ultimately, Ploof built one of the most dominant sports dynasties in the country. From 1970 to 1987, Post 22 won 18 consecutive state tournaments, a national record. He ends his career at Post 22 as the winningest coach in the history of American Legion Baseball with 2,483 wins, while also guiding his teams to 33 state championships, eight World Series appearances, and one national championship in 1993.
Ploof was on the losing end of his last game, which is an odd twist of fate considering he won 75 percent of the games he coached for Post 22.
“He’s a great coach, and he has really taught me a lot. He’s teaches things that will help any player, and I am very grateful that he was there,” said Jake Bohne, who played his final season for Post 22 this year. “It shouldn’t change any player’s perspective. The attitude of the team this year was o.k.. It might have helped if he was a little more positive, but he has his way of coaching, and overall it helped me become a much better baseball player.”
In his last season, Post 22 finished with a record of 45-20, and was eliminated from the state tournament by the eventual champions, Sioux Falls East. The Hardhats entered this year’s state tourney as two-time defending state champs before East ended their bid for a 3-peat. It marks only the eighth state title for Sioux Falls since Ploof took over in 1965. Only three teams outside of Rapid City and Sioux Falls have won a state championship while Ploof was the head coach- Pierre in ’67 and ’68, Mitchell in ‘99, and Aberdeen in 2008.
“His coaching style was more old school than what I think a lot of guys are used to, and I don’t think some of the guys understand what he is getting at all of the time,” said Bohne. “The more time you spend with him the more what he says resonates with you. If he isn’t the coach next year, I would hope that wouldn’t make a difference on whether guys come back. I know the guys in the program will get great coaching no matter who is the coach because we have an incredible coaching staff.”
Ploof took over as the head coach of Post 22 in 1965, and immediately turned Rapid City into champions, winning the state title in both ’65 and ’66. Ploof put hardhats and white shoes on his players, “to make them look bigger and faster,” he told IDS last summer. The hardhats became the symbol of excellence as Post 22 cemented itself as one of the premier baseball programs in the country. The hardhats remained a tradition that Ploof continued for all 47 years as the coach of Post 22.
Ploof’s greatest achievement came in 1993 when the Hardhats won the national championship in Roseburg, Oregon with a record of 70-5. In 2006, Ploof was inducted into the South Dakota Sports Hall-of-Fame.