Tom Doyle jumped at a chance to come back to Rapid City for a game at Fitzgerald Stadium.
With it being about 30 years since he last was a Hardhat, a flood of memories came rushing back when he walked into The Fitz to throw out the first pitch in Tuesday night's Post 22-320 Battle of the Ballfields.
One of the all-time Post 22 greats, other than the lob he threw to current Hardhat catcher Ryan Schmidt, it was just like old times.
And the Hardhats won, beating the Stars 11-1.
"I played a lot of games here. Coach (Dave) Ploof ... the stories. It was a great part of my life," Doyle said a few minutes after the first pitch, sitting in the stadium bench seating instead of the dugout that he was most familiar with.
A construction equipment salesman in Minneapolis, Doyle got a phone call from Dan Lewis of Farmers Union Insurance, the game's sponsor, to come back for a taste of nostalgia.
"This is so great," Doyle said. "I've seen a lot of people, a lot of friends. It's a lot of fun."
Doyle is one of just two Hardhats to play five seasons with the program, with the final four as a starter.
Here's how he ranks with other Hardhat greats:
• Games played in a career — first (340).
• At bats in a career — first (904).
• Doubles in a career — first (102).
• Base hits — second (332).
• Runs batted in — second (257).
• Total bases — second (526).
• Home runs — fifth (22).
• Runs scored — ninth (234).
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Doyle would go on to play for the University of Minnesota and was drafted in the 16th round after his junior season by the Montreal Expos. He played two seasons of minor league baseball before going into the construction business with his father, Bill Doyle, who made the trip back to Rapid City for Tuesday night's game along with Bill's wife and Tom's mother, Karen.
A first baseman with Post 22 from 1985-1989, he was 14 years old and played with the Bullets for a majority of the season before being called up to the varsity for postseason play.
"I got a few games in (six) then, and the next year I ended up starting, and all of the way through," he said. "I remember that (teammate and pitcher) Jamie Richards was 6-foot-8, and he was 18 and I was 15. I was a little scared when he would throw it over with a runner on first."
Doyle was only 12-12 in his career as a pitcher, and he admits he didn't like it much. But, he didn't have much of a choice. Dave Ploof made sure of it.
"Dave knew it too, and he came out to the mound and he said, 'You know, if you don't start throwing strikes, I'm not putting you back at first and you are out of the game,'" Doyle said. "So I began to throw strikes because I wanted to hit."
Despite a .353 career batting average (.408 in his final season), Doyle calls himself lucky to have been able to play in the Post 22 program.
"It was a great career, great time and great memories. It just goes by too fast. It's weird that I am getting that old," he said.
Doyle likes what he sees with Post 22 today, especially with former Hardhat and Major Leaguer Kelvin Torve at the helm.
"I just loved watching them warm up. Watching infield, you can tell with the fundamentals, Kelvin is doing it the right way," he said. "This is a baseball town and what a great guy for these guys to learn from."
Doyle said his parents were big supporters of the program and big supporters of him when he played. They are excited to be back, seeing old friends.
"Post 22 was just so special for us," Bill Doyle said. "We were with it for five years. It is a great program. This is neat. I hope to get to see some people that I haven't seen in a long time."
Tuesday night is probably only about the third time that Tom Doyle has been back to Rapid City after his high school and college playing days. But he said he keeps track of the Hardhats, and when they come to Minneapolis for the Gopher Classic (like they will do this week), he goes to a game or two.
"I'm always keeping up, always watching," he said. "It's a great program, and Kelvin does a great job. He's the perfect guy for the program."
Doyle said he was a little nervous about the first pitch as he hasn't thrown a baseball in about 15 years. He elected to skip any warm up whatsoever.
"I just wanted to get it there," he said with a laugh.
Just like the old days.