In my 15 years of umpiring at the National Baseball Congress World Series, I have come to know the people surrounding the NBC and the city of Wichita very well. The history and tradition surrounding the tournament, the exciting atmosphere that is created and maintained by the fans, and the camaraderie shared by everyone are just a few of the numerous reasons I return every year.
I have many memories working this tournament, but none will stay with me like the tragic events of last weekend. As a firefighter/paramedic of 25 years I have seen the miracle of life begin and end multiple times; I could never have imagined or even considered seeing, much less being involved in, such an event in my career as an umpire. In the life of a first responder, it doesn’t matter if you are a rookie or a 30-year veteran, the calls involving children are always the hardest and can take the biggest emotional and psychological toll on everyone involved. The tragic situation and memory surrounding Kaiser Carlile’s death will be something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
The fire service is embedded with history and tradition, much like the game of baseball and the NBC World Series. Symbolism is prevalent in every aspect of the fire service to honor our past whether we are referring to the Maltese cross, the uniform insignias identifying the rank of an officer, the color red used in fire trucks, or the term “brotherhood” reflecting the family bond that exists worldwide. In the same respect, the baseball family shares a bond that brings us together. On the field, it’s a war from the first pitch to the last out; off the field the family comes together in times of need to support and love one another. The truth in such a statement could not be more readily apparent in seeing the local and international baseball community rally around Kaiser’s death.
Egyptian mythology describes the Phoenix as a sacred firebird. At the end of its life cycle, the phoenix builds itself a nest that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises. The mythology surrounding the Phoenix is embraced by the fire service to represent the belief that from the ashes, brings hope and new life. Kaiser’s legacy also lives on in granting new life to two individuals through the miraculous gift of organ donation.
After the conclusion of the tournament on Saturday, I will begin the long drive back to Florida to return to my normal life as a firefighter; there will be nothing “normal” about it, however. I will continue the healing process that has begun for so many people directly and indirectly involved in Kaiser’s death. I will hug my 8-year-old daughter and my 5-year-old son harder than I ever have before, I will cry a little more when I see my wife for the first time since this tragic event, and I will march on forever changed by a 9-year-old boy’s story who captured the hearts of people around the globe.
My thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to Kaiser’s family, the Liberal Bee Jays organization, and everyone affected by the loss of Kaiser. My eternal thanks and gratitude go out to the citizens of the city of Wichita, the National Baseball Congress, and surrounding communities for their love and support. I am proud to be a part of this baseball family and I look forward to returning to Wichita and the NBC World Series for years to come.
Tarpon Springs, Fla.