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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Baseball royalty drops in to help

BY DION LEFLER
The Wichita Eagle

AID FOR GREENSBURG

Matt Deighton lost his home in the Greensburg tornado, but he salvaged the baseball his father played with in the Merchant League in the 1940s.

And it was a rare moment of joy amid the rubble Tuesday when he had the tattered, yet cherished, ball signed by a visiting Royals Hall of Fame second baseman.

Kansas City Royals legend Frank White was in Greensburg as part of contingent from the team who came to deliver a few smiles and $40,000 for the relief effort.

Smiling, White signed Deighton's baseball, his Royals jersey and even his battered pickup truck.

Deighton said he was grateful for the visit, because it provided a few minutes of relief from the grind of salvage and debris removal, which has been the order of the day every day since the tornado on May 4.

"It's just a little bit of reality to let us know there's still an outside world," said Deighton.

White said he was astonished when he rode into town on the team bus and saw the level of devastation.

"Your eyes get a little wide and your jaw drops a little bit," he said.

White said he had to take shelter several times while managing the Wichita Wranglers from 2004 to 2006, and had seen damage from "microbursts" that hit the area.

But he said he's never seen anything like Greensburg.

"Until you see it... it's really hard to imagine something like this could happen," he said.

White came to Greensburg with fellow retired Royal Brian McRae, club general manager Dayton Moore and longtime team announcer Fred White. They toured the town and dropped in to greet residents at the emergency relief center at Barclay College in nearby Haviland.

To help with the recovery effort, the Royals took up a special collection at their games May 9 and 10, raising $15,000, said team spokeswoman Lora Grosshans. In addition, the team's permanent charity contributed $25,000.

Tuesday, they presented the money to Heart to Heart, an Olathe charity working in Greensburg, she said.

But she said it won't be the last the town sees of the Royals organization.

Once the immediate emergency is over and the town starts getting back on its feet, "We're going to be exploring opportunities to provide baseball equipment for the kids and help build new fields," she said.

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