Rapid City American Legion Post 320 coach Rich Downs addresses his team at practice at Pete Lien Field Friday.

Rapid City Post 320 American Legion baseball manager Rich Downs resigned Wednesday after just one year at the helm.

Last season the stars went 29-16, but failed to reach the state tournament for the second straight season.

Downs said he wanted to move the program forward at a faster rate than the board of directors did, but said there are no hard feelings between him and the program.

"I had a different vision than the board, but it was a mutual parting," Downs said.  "It wasn’t a big thing. I was the wrong fit and I wish them the very best of luck in the future."

When asked what specifically Downs wanted to do differently with the program, Downs declined to comment.

Downs was an assistant coach under long-time Rapid City Post 22 manager Dave Ploof for 30 seasons. He left the program in 2012 and spent five seasons outside of American Legion baseball before taking over the Post 320 program last fall.

Downs was part of the staff that won the 1993 American Legion World Series under Ploof, and coached teams that went to the World Series in 1993, 1995 and 1996. 

Post 320 board of directors president BJ George said the program was surprised by Downs' decision to step down. He said players and families have reached out and they were surprised by the decision too.

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"We were all shocked and disappointed from the news because Coach Downs is a well respected coach. He’s a good coach and we were looking to have him build our program," George said. "He signed a three-year contract and we were hoping he’d do that for three years, but unfortunately for his personal reasons, he decided to step down, and we’ll respect that decision.

"Obviously everyone is sad and disappointed because we were looking forward to three years of having coach Downs around, leading our program and hopefully leading us to a state championship-level baseball team."

George said the process of finding a new coach will start right away. He said last year the process took six weeks to hire Downs, and George said he didn't know for sure how long the process will take this year.

"We’re going to advertise it locally, through the state and with the American Legion," George said. "I can’t put a time-frame on when we’ll have a head coach because it’ll depend on how many people we get and we’ll go from there. We’re going to get that information out as soon as possible and we’ll see what comes in.

"We’re looking for someone who is a good baseball mind, can teach the game to the players, someone who can get the most out of players and also attract players to our program."

Downs said he doesn't have any plans for what his next move will be.

"I enjoyed my time at 320. It’s a mutual parting, they are more comfortable staying with their path. I have no plans. I didn't have any plans prior, my plans were to move 320 into a positive role, improve the level of play. It made some board members uncomfortable," Downs said. "There's no hard feelings, I liked everyone there. They're good people who put in a lot of hard work."

Downs said he wanted baseball to be the focus of the program, and he said that although he felt like the board of directors did as well, he decided it was still time to move on.

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Contact Geoff Preston at geoffrey.preston@rapidcityjournal.com

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