Mikey Gangwish had heard through the grapevine earlier this season that the Hays Larks honored third-year players such as himself. It’s not often that a player is on the local summer-collegiate baseball team that many seasons.

Well Mikey, you can believe it now. On Sunday at Larks Park, Gangwish was surprised with a framed photo and the public address system blared, reciting his accomplishments in a Larks uniform on Host Families Night.

“I had no clue that was coming,” Gangwish said. “I think it’s really nice. This community has always done a really nice job of taking care of players, making them feel at home for the summer. While I’m not one for public recognition, it is nice.”

Gangwish, a standout catcher for Colorado School of Mines for four seasons, returned to the Larks after his senior season with the Orediggers. In the summer of 2018 Gangwish went to Alaska to play for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots after spending 2016 and 2017 in Hays. While the competition was good, the atmosphere could not match Larks Park.

“Anchorage definitely did not have the small-town feel,” Gangwish said. “There are a few die-hard fans but for the most part you’re not playing in front of big crowds. You’re not as important there. It’s not like Hays.”

Gangwish hoped to be selected in this summer’s Major League Draft, but if not he would play in Hays and have an internship at an engineering firm with an office in town. No MLB team picked Gangwish and he returned for one more summer to deliver highlights for Larks’ fans.

Personal highlights for Gangwish included the 2016 NBC World Series when the Larks defeated the Kansas Stars, a team of former MLB all-stars, then advanced to the championship game, which was shown on national television.

Another highlight came on June 14, 2017, when Gangwish belted a walk-off home run at Larks Park to give Larks manager Frank Leo his 1,000th career victory.

“It is something I will probably never forget,” Gangwish said. “I had never hit a walk-off homer before. That was a cool experience.”

As has been Gangwish’s time in Hays. All three years, his host family has been Ryan and Brenda Bickle and their two young children.

“He became our third child,” Ryan Bickle said.

Bickle said Larks pitching coach Keith Harper kept asking about becoming a host family, and once he sweetened the pot by making the player a catcher, Bickle agreed because he had a son who was a catcher. Still, it was a big decision.

“We talked it over,” Bickle said. “First day he was here we realized it was the right decision.”

Leo said Gangwish represents what being a Lark is all about.

“Players don’t come back unless they had a great experience here,” Leo said. “Mikey had a great experience, a great relationship with his host family.

“He buys into your program, on and off the field,” Leo added. “That’s what keeps your program going, players like that. He’s been a great ambassador for us.”