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When the teams take the field for the 51st Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, there will be one extra coach on hand.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), a longtime participant who usually dons the uniform of College Park High School, will forgo tradition and wear his old Rapid City Post 22 jersey from South Dakota instead. The vintage sartorial choice is a tribute to Brady’s American Legion baseball coach, Dave Ploof, who retired in 2011 as the winningest coach in Legion baseball history.
Ploof and his wife, Patty, will be in attendance at the game to see Brady step up to the plate once more for his team.
But Brady’s 16-year tenure in the lawmakers’ game pales in comparison to the career of his mentor.
Ploof coached for 47 years and retired with a 2,483-808 record, a .754 winning percentage. He won 33 state championships, earned eight American Legion World Series appearances and won a national championship in 1993.
Under Ploof, Post 22 also set a record by winning 22 consecutive state titles.
Brady started on two of Ploof’s state championship teams as a left fielder.
“Kevin was a fierce competitor,” recalled Ploof, who also coached Brady’s wrestling team at Rapid City Central High School.
“Dave Ploof is not just the winningest coach,” Brady said. “He taught us how to compete, how to hustle. He taught us integrity.”
Ploof’s influence stretches far beyond South Dakota. In addition to having coached a Member of Congress, he also coached three players who made it to the major leagues: Dave Collins, Kelvin Torve and Mark Ellis. Collins and Torve are retired. Ellis plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But success meant more than wins, Brady said.
“Every year his team won the sportsmanship award,” the lawmaker noted proudly. Ploof, beyond teaching players how to win, “taught us to compete and act like gentlemen.”
Ploof said he taught his players to “work as hard as you can and treat other people as you want to be treated.” As he reflects on retirement, he is most proud that his Post 22 players went on to be outstanding citizens, whether they entered medicine, law, government or the major leagues.
Brady says the behavior that Ploof modeled and encouraged has stayed with him. When things get tense on the House floor, he tries to apply what he learned.
“More than his legacy in baseball, he influenced a generation of young men,” Brady added.
Brady, who captained a scrimmage team during GOP practices, has inherited Ploof’s character as a driven but down-to-earth coach.
“He’s a motivator,” Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) said of Brady.
This will be the first time Ploof and his wife visit Washington, D.C. For Ploof, retirement signals a new beginning.
“When you’re coaching baseball, if you’re going to do it right you have to give all your time to it, and you miss a lot of things. My wife and I are looking forward to this adventure,” Ploof said.
Brady is excited for the opportunity not just to honor his former coach but also to see an old friend. He does, however, anticipate one downside to Ploof’s visit.
“Fitting into my old uniform, that’s the biggest challenge,” he lamented.