When a Ban Johnson League official walked over to Frank White and asked if he would like to visit with members of the Ban Johnson League All-Star teams, who were participating in the 50th anniversary classic at Kauffman Stadium Monday night, the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame second baseman seemed surprised.
“None of these guys know who I am,” White said, chuckling, “I’m too old for any of them to remember me.”
When White entered the dugout of the J All-Stars he was greeted with handshakes, warm smiles and several cell phones, as the players wanted a selfie with the Royals legend.
White wore a bigger smile than most of the players.
“I can’t believe he didn’t think we’d know who he was,” said 2016 Truman High School graduate Rorey Combs, an outfielder for Regal Plastic, who was playing in his first all-star game. “Frank is a legend. We all want to talk with a legend.”
Combs and White spent several minutes talking about the game they both love.
“Back when I was at Lincoln High School, we didn’t have a baseball team,” White said, as Combs showed a look of disbelief. “I played all the other sports, but I only played organized baseball in the summer.”
In fact, White was an 18-year-old kid playing with, and against, much older players back in 1972 when he played in the fourth annual Ban Johnson summer classic.
“I can’t believe this is the 50th anniversary of the all-star game,” White added. “I know when I played it was a long time ago – that first game was also at Municipal back in 1969 – but they’ve been playing this game for a long time.
“And it’s great that kids have the opportunity to come out and play in a major league stadium. I remember how much I enjoyed playing at Municipal.”
Combs is hitting .397 with eight doubles, two triples and four home runs for Regal Plastic this summer. He hit .340 with seven home runs and 51 RBIs for Kansas City Kansas Community College this spring, his final junior college season before heading to Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, this fall.
“I’m really excited about going to Washburn,” Combs said. “I got a lot of good work in at Kansas City Kansas and am ready for the next challenge.”
On Monday, Combs spent much of the time before the game standing in front of his team’s dugout, taking it all in.
“This is pretty amazing,” said Combs, who had one of his team's five hits in two at-bats as his J team lost 10-1 to the B squad. “I’ve been to the stadium a lot times, but this is the first time I’ve been down here.
“We’re in a major league dugout, and just look at that grass. It’s perfect – everything is perfect. This is everything I had hoped it would be.”
And he got to share the experience with many of the top collegiate players and high school graduates in the area.
“That’s what’s really cool,” Combs said, “to be selected to an all-star team. Look around here – the Lufft brothers (Jeremy and Jake, two former Blue Springs High School standouts) and all the other great players.
“To be playing with and against those players at Kauffman Stadium is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
As White listens to the all-stars talk about their experience, the smile reappears on his face.
“I remember when I was their age, about to go the Royals Baseball Academy, dreaming of being a big leaguer,” White said, “I just want them to know a kid from Kansas City made it – and they can too.”