BY ETHAN BOOE
The Hays Larks summer baseball team has seemingly created an everlasting symbiotic bond between the program and the community of Hays. The team will celebrate its 75th anniversary in Hays this June. The Larks recognize that they thrive every year because of host families and a variety of special events.
“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of putting this program on the field,” said Frank Leo, head coach of the Larks. “We can’t do it without the support of our community, without the support of our host families.”
Many of the players joining a team may be from multiple states away or even overseas. The Larks often have these players and host families play a huge role in helping the summer months run smoothly.
Keith Harper, assistant coach for the Larks, believes the players that come in have no idea what to expect when they come to Hays, but near the end of the season they almost always end up wanting to play for the Larks again.
“By the end of the summer many of them tell us ‘I want to come back because I’ve never experienced anything like Hays,'” Harper said. “That’s what we do it for, to let those kids come in and experience one of the greatest baseball places in the country.”
Leo said he tells host families you can have all the money in the world and maybe try to put players up in homes, but being a host family tops the list.
“There’s nothing that’s going to replace having host families where players have an instant family here in Hays, a support group,” he said.
Along with host families, the Larks have a variety of special events throughout the summer that allow them to interact with the community.
Former Lark and Hays native, Ryan Ruder, thinks the players helping out in certain places throughout the community has really gone a long way in creating great relationships.
“It really just brought everyone together,” Ruder said. “The community really welcomes players from all over the country throughout the summer, and it’s always neat to see that.”
As the 75th anniversary of the team approaches, Leo looks back at all the people who helped get the program to where it is today.
“Some great memories for a lot of people over the years, but we can’t do it without the support of our people of Hays,” Leo said.
The 75th anniversary celebrations start on Thursday, June 17 and go through the weekend games.
The Larks were previously a part of the Jayhawk Collegiate League, but complications with COVID last year led to them joining the Rocky Mountain Baseball League. The team plans on playing in the RMBL for the 2021 season starting on June 4th.