When I received Patty Ploof’s phone call early Sunday morning, I knew actually what she would say.
Although I had seen Dave several times over the last month and knew that his time was short, I still felt the shock and deep sadness of losing a friend of 42 years.
Over my career, I have worked with many coaches from different sports. Many were great to work with, but I must say Dave was the best coach I was ever around.
I say that for many reasons. The most important reason is that he cared about every kid that played in the Post 22 program. Many players entered the program as young boys and left as young men. Coach Ploof taught discipline, respect, and hard work. These traits laid the foundation for his tremendous record and championships. He believed that preparation and hard work would carry over into game situations and lead to winning seasons. It worked so well that he never had a losing season in 47 years.
You knew exactly where you stood with Coach. He would tell you how to develop your skills and what was expected of you in the program. He was completely honest and never played mind games with his players. There were some that rejected his coaching methods at first, but they eventually would come around and become better players and contribute to successful teams. I saw this happen many times as they matured and learned the life lessons that he taught. He cared about a player’s life after their Post 22 career and wanted success in whatever they chose to do. Dave always told me he was a teacher and not a coach. His methods of player development demanded commitment and sacrifice to the team.
Coach Ploof worked very hard during his 47 years and brought the program to a national level. He enjoyed every minute of those years and took great pride in his teams that brought recognition to Rapid City. He was very pleased when Rapid City was selected to host a state, regional, or World Series. This would bring exposure and showcase the beauty of Rapid City and the Black Hills to visitors from all parts of the country. Dave created the Firecracker tournament in 1975 and saw it expand from a three-day tournament to the current six-day, eight-team format. Record crowds would attend and it became one of the top Legion Tournaments in the nation.
I could go on and on about his National Championship season of 1993, his 34 State Championships and his 2,483 wins but I will remember the man that provided strength and encouragement to many.
Dave and I had a good friendship for 42 years. During my 18-month illness, he would call every 3-4 weeks to see how I was doing. I remember the first year I broadcasted the games; Dave was a little unsure how I would do. I was 18 years old at the time (same age as some of the players), so he took a transistor radio to the dugout to listen to the game in progress. I guess he thought I was okay, but every year I would call him and ask if I could broadcast another year and he would just tell me that he still hadn’t decided to do the games again that year so he could make a final determination. That went on for 37 years!
Dave told me one time that his hero was his Mother. I met her many years ago when she and his sister attended the games when we played in Dave’s hometown of Austin, Minnesota. He said his Mother always told him that his purpose in life should be “to always help others.” Well, Dave, you made your Mother proud. Well done my friend.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Patty and Dave’s relatives and friends.