In Carl Blando’s first couple of seasons as a coach in Kansas City’s Ban Johnson League, the administrators knew it could potentially be a brief pit stop for him. Even in those early years, he was more enthralled with the process than the results, more in tune with identifying and developing talent than reaping the rewards of it.
And sure enough, after three straight Ban Johnson League championships, he embarked on a 25-year career working as a Major League Baseball scout. But he rarely missed an opportunity to return to Ban Johnson, offering advice and time with players. “We owe a lot to him,” says Nancy Milgram, the league’s president.
Blando died Thursday. He was 84. A native of Kansas City, he leaves behind six children, three step-children and 18 grandchildren.
“We’ve lost a very important person in baseball in Kansas City,” Milgram said . “So many people knew him because he worked around baseball in this community for so many years. He loved teaching the game.”
Blando moved through the ranks of Kansas City baseball, reaching its pinnacle with the Royals in 1977. After assuming a full-time role three years later, he stuck with the organization for more than two decades before leaving for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2000. Even after retiring from that gig, he couldn’t stay away from the game that drove his livelihood. He worked part-time for Rockhurst University and eventually part-time once more with the Royals.
“Carl was more than just a good scout — he was a fine person and a great mentor to both young players and scouts in the game,” said Art Stewart, a Royals senior advisor to the general manger who was the club’s long-time director of scouting. “He was from the old school, where you had to earn your way up, but he always gave kids a chance to prove themselves.”
And many did.
Blando is credited with helping to identify and eventually sign David Cone, an eventual Cy Young Award winner, and Danny Jackson, who won 14 games for the 1985 Royals team that went on to win the World Series. The Royals honored Blando in 1987 with the Ewing M. Kauffman Award, reserved fort those who furthered professional baseball in Kansas City.
For Blando, the roots were grounded in the city’s Ban Johnson League for summer college players, an organization for which he worked during the 1970s. He led his team to three consecutive league championships from 1973-1975 and was later inducted into its Hall of Fame. The Kansas City Metro Baseball Coaches Association gave him a lifetime achievement award in 2016.
For Ban Johnson’s annual winter banquets, Milgram invited the Hall of Famers, and Blando almost always accepted.
“Everybody looked forward to talking with him,” Milgram said. “He was just a tremendous influence on a lot of people — players, coaches, everybody, including myself.”