When Rapid City American Legion Post 22 shortstop Cooper Bowman tries to describe his love for baseball, he has a hard time articulating how he feels.

He's been playing baseball for as long as he can remember, but when asked to describe how baseball made him feel he had a hard time doing it following Post 22's win against Rapid City Post 320 8-7 Friday.

It's a feeling that he's had since he was a child, and it doesn't matter who is playing or where the game is being played; he's interested.

"I don't even know where to start. I just love it, I've loved it my whole life," he said. "I love watching it, I love playing it, everything about it is fun."

Bowman may love baseball because the sport has been kind to the Rapid City Stevens junior. Through 14 games this season he is hitting .419 with three home runs, 11 RBI and 12 stolen bases.

Those numbers are coming off a sophomore season where he hit .286 with one homer and 44 RBI.

His defense has also been reliable at shortstop for the 12-2 Hardhats for the past two seasons.

He said making a big-time defensive play is more important to him than getting a big hit.

"I love defense, I think defense wins games," he said. "Depending on the situation I would have to say defensive plays are what gets everyone going so those plays are fun to make."

Those plays don't get made without a lot of hard work to develop quick, soft hands at shortstop.

"It's definitely a gift from upstairs but it's also a lot of repetition, a lot of practice, a lot of short hops in the living room, short hops at practice," he said. "It's a gift but my teammates have helped me out as well."

He's also gotten some inspiration from a few of the best major league shortstops. Although Bowman said he doesn't really model his game after anyone in particular, he's an avid baseball consumer and knows a good shortstop when he sees one, including legends and young players.

"I used to love watching (Derek) Jeter, Corey Seager, Dansby Swanson is probably my favorite," he said. "I don't know if I model my game after them but I like how they play."

He's not only a good two-way baseball player, he's also a two-sport athlete. Bowman is on the Stevens basketball team as a guard.

Still, it took him less than a second to answer which he prefers, baseball or basketball.

"Oh, baseball easily," he said.

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Bowman began his varsity career his freshman season when he was called up for a few games. Last season he was on the team that won the state championship but, also the one the failed to reach the American Legion World Series.

As many Post 22 players have said this season, the ultimate goal extends beyond the state tournament.

Still, Bowman said he knows the Hardhats have to take things one game at a time. 

He also wasn't shy about saying that he believes this group has the ability to take the next step.

"It'd be a dream come true for everyone, that's what we all strive for. That's what we all want to do and obviously we know we have to go one game at a time," he said. "I think that's where everyone's focus is and it's good when everyone has the same goal and we work good as a group. I think this group can do it."

The reason he thinks this group is different is that he's seen how close the team has become as a result of hard work in the offseason.

"It's almost like we're brothers, we've known each other forever, played against each other since we were little and now we're playing together," he said. "Everyone has a lot of talent and work ethic, we're in here every day before and after school, lifting, practice, our coaches do a great job. I think we have the talent and work ethic to do it."

Post 22 is in Pierre today to take on Pierre Post 8 in a doubleheader that begins at 12:30 p.m.

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