KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A 14-foot mannequin of a Royals player that was stolen from a billboard is safe at home in Kansas City.
The three-dimensional foam cutout was found Friday morning in good condition in a previously searched weedy area near the scene of the theft just northeast of the city's downtown, said Bob Fessler, a general manager for Lamar Advertising.
"A guy on his way to work saw a hand sticking out of the grass and called authorities," said Fessler, adding that the thieves apparently "got nervous" and returned it as news of the theft circulated on social media and newscasts.
The cutout, which weighs 150 pounds and is valued at $7,500, is part of an advertisement for grocery store chain Hy-Vee and shows a center-fielder leaping against an image of the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals' home.
Fessler said a man taking his wife to the hospital early Thursday saw the cutout being removed but thought company employees were involved. Fessler estimated that it would take more than an hour to disconnect the mannequin from the sign, which hangs 30 to 40 feet in the air along Interstate 435. He said the cutout would be equally difficult to transport.
"I don't know what they were using for a vehicle," Fessler said. "It would have been hanging out the back. You would have to have a flatbed or a box truck."
Jackson County Sheriff's Sgt. John Payne said no arrests have been made but a person of interest has been identified.
The billboard was among five placed around the Kansas City metropolitan area this spring, but Lamar Advertising is in the process of taking them down. The billboards are going into storage and will be put back up this summer, Fessler said.