In Kelvin Torve's own words, being the Rapid City Post 22 head baseball coach is an honor beyond measure and beyond imagination.
The former Post 22 player, college star and Major Leaguer came home two years ago to help with the program, first as the coach of the Cadets (14-under) and then with the Bullets, the third level of the program.
Now he is the head coach after Mitch Messer stepped down after six years at the helm. It’s a program that still sits on a pedestal after the legendary and late Dave Ploof coached the team to nonparallel success in his 47 years at the helm.
Torve was introduced Wednesday afternoon by new Post 22 general manager Wayne Sullivan to a small gathering of players, parents and well wishers at the indoor facility at Fitzgerald Stadium.
Before his introduction, Torve told the Rapid City Journal that there is a legacy at Post 22 that is as unique as any in the country.
“Rapid City is a baseball town and Post 22 is the premiere baseball program in this town,” Torve said. “There are expectations in this program that I embrace and my players embrace. The legacy goes back 50-plus years. I tell my guys that they are standing on the shoulders of giants. What I encourage them to do is be the player that the next generation behind them will be standing on their shoulder.”
Post 22 has won 38 state titles. Ploof, who won over 2,400 games, guided the team to the American Legion World Series eight times and won the national title in 1993. He passed away his summer at the age of 80.
Messer, who won four state titles, guided the Hardhats to a 51-9 record this season that ended in disappointment as they failed to win the South Dakota state title for the first time in five years.
Torve, who played for Ploof from 1976-78, went on to star for then Division I Oral Roberts. He then played briefly for the Minnesota Twins in 1988 and two seasons for the New York Mets (1990-91), before playing two more seasons overseas in Japan for the Orix BlueWave (1992-93).
After his playing says, he settled in North Carolina with his wife, Tonya, and two children, son Logan and daughter Tatum, for several years before returning to Rapid City two years ago. He said it was never his intent to coach the Hardhats, but it turned out to be a dream come true.
“When I was raising my family in North Carolina, we’d come up to Rapid City every Fourth of July, and we’d come out to watch a Post 22 game at the Firecracker. I’d look out there and say, ‘man, it would be fun to coach here,'" he said. "But I doubted that it would ever happen. We had our life in North Carolina and a job. But life happens and the next thing I know, I had a chance to coach the Cadets and the Bullets. Now this opportunity has presented itself.”
Sullivan said he likes the wealth and knowledge that Torve brings; his demeanor and his character of what he is going to do for this program. He said that is a big plus as to why he was hired.
“You sit and talk to Coach Torve for five or 10 minutes, you’ll understand his character and what kind of man he is, and that will do good things for our program,” Sullivan said.
Torve said that with the high expectations, there is a price to pay to stay at the top. He said they expect their players to pay the price as far as discipline sacrifice, hard work and putting others first.
“When I first started my professional career (MLB Hall of Famer) Frank Robinson told me that getting to the big leagues is the easy part; staying is the hard part,” he said. “It’s the same thing here. This program has gotten to the point that winning a state title is an expectation, and that is the easy part. Staying there is the hard part. That is one thing that we will keep in front of our players. I know Mitch did it and definitely Coach Ploof did it prior to that. “
Post 22 shortstop Cooper Bowman said that many of the Hardhats worked with Torve in the past and they are anxious to do so again.
“He has been around helping everyone,” said Bowman, who has signed a letter of intent to play collegiately for Division I Hawai’i next fall. “We’re excited to work under him; I know I am. I am excited that he is our head coach. He knows the game better than anyone that I know. I think he can teach us a lot of new things.”
There’s really no such thing as an off-season for American Legion baseball in Rapid City. Torve said that he and Sullivan have a lot of work to do to get ready for spring.
The first order of business will be to complete the coaching staff for the Hardhats, Expos and Bullets.
“We have some wonderful people that we are going to be talking to,” Torve said. “From there, we’ll just start planning spring training and the off-season workouts. We’re behind, but we’re going to bust it to catch up.”
After filling the coaching staff, Sullivan said they will get all of the parents, returning players and any new players together and begin preparing for the 2018 season.
“We need to let them know the expectations, let them know what will be expected of Post 22 baseball players,” Sullivan said. “That will be the big thing moving forward, and then getting into the facility and getting the baseball skills and fundamentals to what you need come spring time.”