I grew up watching the Kansas City Athletics, a group of castoffs and over-the-hill players who never really made much of an impact at old Municipal Stadium.

I grew up watching the Kansas City Athletics, a group of castoffs and over-the-hill players who never really made much of an impact at old Municipal Stadium.
But I didn’t care. Joe Nossek, Jim Landis, Jim Gentile, Lew Krausse and Rollie Sheldon were my heroes.
We even had Rocky Colavito for a year or two, and the slugger hit his 300th career homer while a member of the A’s. I wasn’t there when he collected the milestone hit, but I was sitting right behind third base when A’s owner Charlie Finley presented him with 300 silver dollars, which were delivered by a Brinks truck and deposited at home plate.
Just before the A’s skipped town and headed to Oakland, we caught a glimpse of future greats like Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Catfish Hunter (my all-time favorite A’s player) and Dick Green.
Kansas City didn’t have professional baseball for a year, but thanks to the late Ewing Kauffman, baseball returned in 1969 with the Kansas City Royals.
It didn’t take long for the Royals to develop a group of players who became household names in the metro area.
Amos Otis, Steve Busby, Frank White, George Brett, Paul Splittorff and Dennis Leonard were the guys I idolized.
Each of them is enshrined in the Royals Hall of Fame, along with a guy who had no business making it to the big leagues.
But as 5-foot-4 shortstop Freddie Patek once said when asked what it was like to be the shortest man in the majors, “It sure beats being the shortest player in the minors.”
I loved Freddie Patek. My brothers and I once turned a sheet into a personal plea for fans to vote Freddie onto the American League All-Star team. Every time we went to Municipal Stadium we would carry that flag/poster from the right-field foul pole to the left-field bleachers yelling, “Vote for Freddie Patek!”
I don’t know how much impact our sheet made, but Patek was voted onto three All-Star squads. He had a cannon for an arm, turned a double play with the grace of a dancer and always seemed to come through with a clutch hit.
And the guy looked up to me when I asked him for his autograph.
Now, 30 years after he starred for the Royals and helped them win division titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978, he’s giving something back to the community.
I got a call from Freddie asking if I could put something in the paper about some upcoming tryouts for his Little League baseball team.
What a shame that none of the 10-year-olds he’s coaching know that Patek was once featured on the cover of Sporting News. His former manager, Whitey Herzog, called him “the best artificial turf shortstop” he’d ever seen and while playing for the California Angels, he once hit three home runs in one game.
“That was a long time ago,” said Patek, chuckling. “I wasn’t much of a home run hitter.”
No, but he was a winner.
And now, he wants to show youngsters how to win.
He’s going to manage the USSSA Elks Lodge No. 2509 baseball team in Blue Springs. They will play their games at the American Legion Field off U.S. 40 and Brizendine Road, and they’re going to be holding a tryout camp at 1 p.m. Aug. 8 at American Legion Field No. 3. For more information on the tryouts, call 816-509-9288.
“We had a team last year, and had a lot of fun with it,” said Patek, whose grandson Jackson Rehkow played on the team.
“We finished third in the state tournament last year and we’re looking for some good players. And I know there are plenty of them out in Eastern Jackson County.”
If playing for Patek isn’t exciting enough, his Hall of Fame teammate Dennis Leonard is going to work with the pitchers.
“We’re really going to stress the fundamentals this year,” Patek said. “We’re going to work on base running and pickoffs and hitting the cutoff man – but we’re also going to have a lot of fun.
“And all the guys are going to play. We have to remember that they’re 10 years old. We want them all to play, but we want to teach them to play the right way.”
And playing the right way made Freddie Patek a legend in Kansas City.
For more information on tryouts, call Fred Patek or Lance Rooney at 816-509-9288 or send e-mail to lrooney@comcast.net.