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Larks baseball honor veterans

6/30/2014

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

There was plenty of bunting Sunday night at Larks Park.

Not during the game between the Hays Larks and El Dorado Broncos. But bunting of a different kind -- red, white and blue decorations in the grandstand.

There also were American flags surrounding the park, all part of a special night.

Instead of honoring America, the Hays Larks were honoring America's veterans and active military personnel. The sixth annual Military Appreciation Night honored 73 service members, past and present, before the game.

Mike Arensdorf was among a group of Larks' boosters who came up with the idea six years ago. He and his wife, Jill, are instrumental in organizing the event each year.

"There's a lot of people that help quite a bit," Mike Arensdorf said.

Arensdorf, who didn't serve in the military, wanted a special night for those who did.

"I just want them to know how much we appreciate what they do for us," he said.

The veterans -- some with the aid of a cane or walker -- stood in a group on the infield as their names were called on the public address system. After a short speech and patriotic music, fans in the packed grandstand broke into applause.

Among the veterans in attendance were two World War II Navy veterans from Hays, Ralph Engel, 89, and Julius Rohr, 88. They are brothers-in-law; Engel married Rohr's sister. They both wore "World War II veteran" caps. Both served in the South Pacific.

"It's nice; good idea," Rohr said of being honored. It was his first time at the event.

Bob Pfeifer, 87, Hays, also was a World War II veteran honored Sunday.

"I just served at the tail end of it," in the Army, Pfeifer said.

But he served, and he was honored Sunday.

"I think it's just great," he said of the recognition night, "a good thing to do."

Sunday was the first time Rohr attended Military Appreciation Night, but that didn't mean he wasn't familiar with Larks Park. Not by a long shot.

"I used to play here," he said. "In '44, Tony Ruder and I played. He was the left fielder, and I was the right fielder.

"I played before I went to the service. When I came back, I played for the Junior Larks, then got up to the Senior Larks."

Rohr still played after his Larks days were finished.

"Then I got married, thought I better stay home, so I played softball," he said.

Rohr was a catcher for the VFW's fast-pitch softball team.

Engel, who walks with aid of a cane, has been at Military Appreciation Night in the past. He appreciates the recognition.

"I think it's great," he said. "People don't understand what we went through."