By NICK McQUEEN
It wouldn't take much more than a small window air conditioner to make the effort a little more enjoyable, but Ken Windholz isn't going to let the sweltering heat in the press box at Larks Park stop him from making his contribution.
Windholz, a Hays Larks' public address announcer, just wants to be a part of the process, and is one of numerous volunteers through the summer who donate their time to make things happen for what many have dubbed "the best brand of summer baseball in Hays."
"It's summer," Windholz says. "There is a kick-backed feeling about the whole thing."
Windholz, who also serves as the PA announcer for Fort Hays State University home football, basketball and some baseball games, is enjoying his first summer behind the mic at Larks Park, doing his best to interact with the crowd, keep the music going, and not mess up too many names.
"I had eyes to do it before," Windholz said. "I just enjoy doing PA work. It's the greatest seat in the house."
Windholz said he would normally be at the game, anyway, and his heavy voice would likely be booming over the park.
"This way it's a little bit more controlled and channelled, and maybe some positive comes out of it," he said.
The professionalism in the press box and Windholz' ability to run the show on game night has not gone unnoticed by both fans and officals, alike.
"He's been at every home date, and handles the whole show up there," said Hays Baseball Association President Mel Karst. "I hope he continues to do it. He spends a lot of time just setting up the format for the games, and does a tremendous job."
Much like that of a minor league baseball club, the Larks organization, which is volunteer driven and funded, game nights at Larks Park are all about the atmosphere, which Windholz likes to be a part of.
"I really didn't realize what a job it is, but it's an enjoyable thing," Windholz said. "To do it right, I spend about two or three hours in prep each game, just kind of writing out scripts."
A typical game night might find Windholz at the park a couple hours prior to the start just making sure he has things in order, and taking time to interact with as many people as possible.
"What I like about this, is it is primarily volunteer from team-to-team," Windholz said. "People are there purely for the love of doing it."
Windholz, who has a photography business in Hays that will keep him away from the park the next two Saturdays, also donates his time producing Larks baseball cards, which are sold at the ballpark and can be signed by the Larks players.
""When I was a kid, I always thought how neat it would be to have a baseball card of myself," Windholz said. "Of course, I never did, but I thought it would be cool if they got one of themselves as a Hays Lark."
He is one of numerous volunteers putting in countless summer hours to produce not only the Larks, but all four of the HBA's programs, coming up with similar ideas.
Two years ago, the Larks were on the verge of not having a program. Due to the high cost of travel and equipment, the Larks nearly sat out, but the community stepped up to the challenge.
"I like to see things take place and be a part of those things," Windholz said. "Just to be around the atmosphere, and I really like to meet the people involved."
A booster club was formed last summer for the Larks and was aimed at raising funds and organizing promotions. It is a volunteer effort in addition to the work the HBA already puts in. The booster club has organized several fundraisers, including the Sponsor-a-Lark program.
"They volunteer at the concession stand, volunteer to do fundraisers, and that's all extra from what Hays baseball does," Karst said of the boosters, adding a long list of volunteers that make things happen for the Larks and HBA's three other teams: The Legion, Jr. Legion, and Renegades.
"We run four teams and travel all over the place with every team," Karst said. "The board does a big share of it, but without the support of the volunteeers, especially with the Larks, it just wouldn't happen."