Gigantic Royals player missing from billboard on I-435 has been found

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --   Widespread media attention is being credited for prompting thieves to return a 14-foot tall mannequin of a baseball player.

Friday morning sheriff deputies recovered the larger-than-life figure near the billboard along I-435, where it had been taken.

The Royals player is now safely back with Lamar Advertising, who says it may mount it again on another billboard in the coming months.

Just before 7:30 a.m., a man on his way to work reported seeing the ballplayer's hand sticking out of the weeds across the street from the highway display.

In the last 24 hours since FOX 4 first reported the theft, the advertising company says people have reported seeing the mannequin being taken down about 5:30 a.m. Thursday. At the time most thought it was the billboard company changing the sign.

"One of the women up the street said her son, her 8-year-old son was upset, that it was taken," said Bob Fessler, of Lamar Advertising. "People are pretty excited about the Royals and this was unique having a player jump three dimensional off the boards, so we are just happy it’s back."

Fessler says he believes the thieves realized the figure was too large to easily hide. And after the news spread on social media, deputies think they got scared and brought it back. The sheriff's office tells FOX 4 they have identified a person of interest and the investigation is continuing.

Fessler says the player has not been damaged, he just needs to be cleaned up a little. Hy-Vee, a Royals sponsor, spent nearly $8,000 to create the artwork for its advertising campaign.

A large Royals player has been found.

A large Royals player has been found.

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Billboard, now empty, on I-435 near Truman.

Billboard, now empty, on I-435 near Truman.

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