The word tragedy means an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress. There is no better word, sentence or phrase to sum up what happened to Kaiser Carlile.
Chances are you have heard his story by now.
Kaiser was the bat boy for the collegiate summer-league Liberal Bee Jays baseball team. As the Bee Jays were playing their opening game of the Championship Week of the National Baseball Congress World Series on Saturday, Kaiser was accidentally struck in the head by an on-deck batter warming up. Although he was wearing his helmet, Kaiser would later succumb to his injuries and would pass away Sunday.
In honor of Kaiser, in Liberal’s first game since his death, the team wore jerseys with their favorite bat boy’s initials ‘KC’ on the front. Kaiser’s family, including his younger sister, shook hands and exchanged hugs with all of the Bee Jay players before the game, and their opponents the Seattle Studs offered their condolences, and stood with the Liberal players side by side during Kaiser’s moment of silence.
Through all the drama and despair, the Bee Jays have not wavered from their decision to continue playing.
“Well we know what Kaiser would want, and that would be for us to go out and play,” said Liberal Manager Adam Anderson. “That’s the only message we’ve told the team, to go out and play hard and play together because that’s what we’re doing. We are going through all of this together.”
Kaiser got a front row seat to every Liberal game this summer, right next to Anderson. Kaiser was willing to take in any piece of baseball knowledge Anderson would throw out there. For Anderson, it is Kaiser’s infectious positivity that will be missed the most.
“Kaiser and I were really close. He was right here beside me, every time we were in the dugout he stood right there beside me. He was as much a part of the team as anyone else out here. The smile he could put on every on anybody’s face was just something you don’t see very often,” said Anderson.
Kaiser had a taste of the life as the Bee Jays bat boy last summer, and made it apparent that he wanted to do it full time next summer. Throughout his inaugural season as the team’s bat boy, Kaiser had become a fan favorite in Liberal, even getting praise over the loud speakers at home games for his constant hard work and hustle. The only people who loved his presence more than the fans were the players.
“It’s amazing how much someone can touch your life in such a short time and how big of an influence someone can make on you,” said Bee Jays pitcher Kadon Simmons. “It was truly like the little brother I’ve never had.”
A bat boy is a true luxury in baseball. At times it can be a thankless job. Whether it is chasing foul balls, grabbing equipment bags, or simply picking up bats at home plate, a bat boy can be an overlooked commodity amongst baseball teams. For the Bee Jays, Kaiser meant more to the team than that. It wasn’t a luxury to have him as a bat boy, it was a privilege to have him as a teammate and a friend.
“He always did his job 110% every single day and he was the best bat boy in baseball. He always will be,” said Bee Jays outfielder Gavin Wehby, who picked up Kaiser, trying to comfort him initially after the accident.
Since the accident, Liberal had gone 2-0 before falling to Seattle Tuesday night. Despite the loss, NBC Tournament Director Kevin Jenks believes that the face Liberal still has the willpower to keep playing, has helped to bring a community together.
“Sports has a way of bringing people together. Even if they don’t know anything about baseball,” said Jenks. “When the community got together in different ways, people holding fundraisers and selling doughnuts, that’s amazing. And while people may look at our incident that took place on Saturday as a focal point for that, that’s a part for a lot of people and sometimes you need a reason to bring it out.”
While the cliché ‘That’s what he would have wanted’ has been thrown around to explain why Liberal continues to play, it just seems to ring so true in this instance.
“He not only loved the game of baseball but he loved being a Liberal Bee Jay more than anyone. He was always an inspiration for our team to play hard and to always give everything on the field not just for ourselves but for him, all the kids in the stands and for all the fans,” said Wehby.
What happened in the days following Kaiser’s accident has changed his story from a tragedy, to one of hope.
Word traveled fast of Kaiser’s accident, and the amount of support towards the Bee Jays’ family was overwhelming.
It began at the National Baseball Congress World Series, where on Sunday the scoreboard at Lawrence Dumont Stadium read “KC” in honor of Kaiser. Representatives from a rival team the Hutchinson Monarchs raised more than $2000 for Kaiser’s medical costs by asking for donations around Lawrence Dumont Stadium.
Soon after, the support grew from just the NBC World Series, to Kansas wide support. Hurts Donut, a restaurant in Wichita, made special baseball doughnuts Monday, and sold each for $2 with 100% of the proceeds going to the Carlile family. With a waiting line that stretched out the door, and people waiting nearly 90 minutes for their doughnuts, the city of Wichita and Hurts Donut helped raise nearly $10,000.
Then, the support went national. Through social media, some of the biggest names in baseball offered their condolences. From Oakland Athletic Billy Butler, to the Kansas City Royals organization and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. Some of the best in baseball now knew who Kaiser was.
As the story of Kaiser spread nationally, the amount of people taking time out of their day to send positive thoughts and wishes to the Bee Jays family was immense.
Maybe the most humbling show of support came on the GoFundMe.com page for Kaiser. The page set a goal of $100,000, and in less than 2 days, that goal had not only been reached but surpassed by nearly $10,000. More than 2,600 people and businesses from across the United States chipped in, even the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics each made a magnanimous donation of $1,500.
The support undoubtedly helps the Bee Jays family, but it can only numb the pain right now. In such a case were the death of a loved one comes so unexpectedly, it will take time before one can fully process what has happened. Even time may never explain why, in a world with such evil, must a young, spirited, innocent child lose his life in an unthinkable accident. Deaths like Kaiser’s will change lives forever.
“I won’t ever pick up a baseball and not think of Kaiser, and it’s a good thing,” said Bee Jays catcher Brady Cox. “Simply as I put it, no matter how bad of a day I’m having I will always remember him saying, ‘It’s alright you’ve got some other at-bats left’. How much he has touched me in the short amount of time I’ve known him and how much he means to me, I can’t imagine what the family is going through and you’ll always be in my heart for that. Kaiser will always hold a special place in my heart. I will never step on a field and not think of him.”
Yet, among all the sorrow, an incredible showing of compassion, sympathy and human nature has been on display at a level no one could have predicted.
Although Kaiser is gone, this little 9 year old boy from a town of just over 20,000 people in western Kansas, has restored some faith in humanity. After hearing his story, people from across the country of different races and ages have rallied around the Bee Jays to provide any kind of support. The state of Kansas has completely embraced Bee Jays and the Carlile’s like family, and complete strangers are hurting like Kaiser was their own son.
Before Tuesday’s game, Kaiser’s father Chad could be seen crouching on the field, struggling with his emotions. Then, in Kaiser fashion, his little sister Keirsie walked over and comforted Chad with a pat on the head, proving that his attitude and personally is not gone.
Nothing can bring Kaiser back, nothing. However, the more people read of his story, and read of his kind, cheerful nature, Kaiser’s spirit will carry on. As more people see his picture, as more people come out to cheer on the Bee Jays, Kaiser will continue to live on in the minds and hearts of thousands.
For the Liberal Bee Jays players, coaches, friends and families have lost not just a bat boy, but a teammate, a brother, a friend. But in their distress, they have gained thousands more friends, fans and family members to help shoulder their pain.
For that, we will always have Kaiser Carlile to thank.