TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Fourth of July festivities at Kauffman Stadium will have a fitting honoree on Thursday.
Topeka native and World War II veteran Jim Freel will sit in the Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat. The Royals honor a recipient who exemplifies the giving and serving spirit of O'Neil every game by giving them the seat he sat in as a fan and scout. O'Neil was a former Negro Leagues star who became the first African American coach in Major League Baseball.
Freel fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima as a Marine. He earned a Purple Heart medal after being wounded there. The 96-year-old still has shrapnel in his neck from enemy fire.
In addition to his military service, Freel served as the chief of Topeka Police and as a special agent for the U.S. Department of Labor. But when fans see him as an honoree at the Royals game, he wants them to look beyond him.
"I don't want them to think of me as an individual," Freel said. "I want them to think of me as part of the biggest team or brotherhood of military people that has ever been assembled. I'm just grateful that our nation can afford to have situations throughout the world and that they have the relaxation of sports teams."
You can watch Freel's full story on the Fourth of July edition of 13 News at 10 on Thursday night.