NBC Baseball

Liberal Bee Jays player benefits from sport’s support system

The Liberal Bee Jays team kneels in prayer near the outfield gate opened for an ambulance to transport Kaiser Carlile to a hospital on Aug. 1. Kaiser, 9, died the next day from injuries sustained when he was struck by a practice swing near the on-deck circle.
The Liberal Bee Jays team kneels in prayer near the outfield gate opened for an ambulance to transport Kaiser Carlile to a hospital on Aug. 1. Kaiser, 9, died the next day from injuries sustained when he was struck by a practice swing near the on-deck circle. Associated Press

The Liberal Bee Jays baseball player who swung a bat and accidentally hit a bat boy is done with summer baseball and soon to return to college for the fall semester.

After an emotional two weeks, filled with support from teammates, fans and coaches, the next part of his life is waiting in a different state. How people handle that kind of incident varies, psychologist Andrea Reed said. Reed has not met the athlete, whom The Wichita Eagle has not named.

Liberal bat boy Kaiser Carlile, 9, died Aug. 2 after the accident the previous day in the National Baseball Congress World Series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Kaiser, wearing a helmet, was struck in the head by a follow-through swing near the on-deck circle during a game.

His funeral was held Tuesday in Liberal at Seward County Community College.

“It’s a very individual thing when you’re looking at issues of trauma and grief,” said Reed, who works for Prairie View community mental health center. “As a professional, thinking about this player, I’m really hoping that he has found someone to talk to and process through this experience with… whether it be a professional or a teammate or a parent.”

Steve Dickie, a character development coach and retired pastor, said that in his experience people who endure this type of hardship must let other people help. They must also forgive themselves, an act he says is difficult.

“We were designed to live in community, with family,” he said. “If an athlete came into my office and shared a similar experience, I’d tell them they had a choice — let the situation paralyze them or they can let it propel them into something positive. We either get bitter or better.”

The Bee Jays decided to continue playing, with the approval of Kaiser’s parents, after Aug. 2. The player who accidentally struck the bat boy sat out one game before returning to the lineup. Liberal played 11 games in the NBC World Series, three after Kaiser’s death. The remaining games turned into a celebration of his life with family, players and coaches sharing memories. The Bee Jays wore uniforms with Carlile’s initials on the front of the blue shirt.

“Being around your support system and doing the thing that’s normal to you certainly feeds into that resiliency and ability to move forward,” Reed said. “When we think about support systems, in a team sport, that’s how you operate, how you function best with that communication and that teamwork. It’s kind of a naturally built-in mechanism for providing that support for these emotional, trying times.”

Dickie, who volunteers with the Wichita State men’s basketball team, encourages people he counsels to talk about trauma and grief so that the issues don’t fester.

“Identify it and use it for something better,” he said. “Sometimes things call my attention to life as a gift. Pursue the author of life and live life in a such a way that it really matters. Be a blessing to others.”

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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