Wrestling, Chad Carlile believes, is a sport that requires its participants to have a bit of an attitude.
“You’ve got to be a little rough around the edges,” said Carlile, who was a 103-pound state high school champion for Liberal in 1998, his senior year.
But it was apparent to Carlile that his son, Kaiser, 9, lacked that roughness. His edges were smooth.
“He was such a good-hearted kid,” Carlile said. “He couldn’t hurt a fly, because if he did, it would bother him.”
Kaiser Carlile died Sunday from injuries suffered Saturday at the National Baseball Congress World Series. A Liberal Bee Jays on-deck batter accidentally struck Kaiser, the team’s bat boy, with a warm-up swing; Kaiser was wearing a helmet.
Chad Carlile was in Liberal at the time of the accident. Bee Jays general manager Mike Carlile, a distant cousin, arranged for a plane to bring Chad to Wichita, where he arrived less than five hours later. Kaiser’s mother arrived after that.
Now they grieve with so many others who struggle to make sense of a senseless happening.
Chad Carlile remembers a kid whose biggest thrill in life was to be a Bee Jays bat boy, to hang around the guys.
Kaiser’s grandmother Kim Carlile thinks about all the times Kaiser would sit on her lap.
“We’d be on my chair, and he would tell me over and over ‘I love you, Nana, I love you.’ Those were his words.”
Allan Carlile, Kaiser’s grandfather, talked about the times they went fishing together, to which Kaiser’s 7-year-old sister, Keirsie, said: “He always thought he had a fish on his pole.”
Turns out, though, that more often than not, it was just the worm.
It’s impossible to come to grips with how this sweet boy’s life could end so tragically.
He was beloved by the Liberal players. It was a bond that formed quickly, because the team didn’t come together until early June. But it was unbreakable.
Liberal players spoke of their love for Kaiser during an emotional news conference Monday.
And for Kaiser’s family, the love flows both ways.
“The main thing I want to say is that the support and love the Bee Jays have showed my son during this whole year – it’s tremendous,” Chad Carlile said. “A lot of people can take it for granted that they have a bat boy and just send him to get the bat and that’s it. But it was so much more than that.
“They showed him how to be a good sport, how to be competitive. They were his friends, his brothers, and he was a part of the family.
“He was a Bee Jay. I’ve never actually thought about it that way, but he was. He was a Bee Jay.”
Kaiser ate up the attention he received at Liberal’s home games this season. He was enthusiastic and eager, and it probably didn’t hurt that he was the cutest kid you’d ever want to see.
And tiny for a 9-year-old – stature he got from his father.
Kaiser took a couple of road trips with the Bee Jays, which meant getting to ride on the team bus.
“We always followed behind in our car,” Allan Carlile said. “And when we’d ask him how it went on the bus, he would say, ‘What goes on on that bus stays on the bus.’ He’d never tell us.”
The family trusted that there was nothing bad. They rave about the character of the Liberal players.
“I’m trying to move forward because of this team,” Chad Carlile said. “I can’t stress enough how much the guys on this team mean to us. This Bee Jay team is above and beyond anything I could imagine. It’s not just a baseball team, it’s a family with a bunch of different last names.
“They treated my son like he was their own. Every single player.
“So how do I move on? I look at every single one of those guys in their eyes and see the love they have for my son. It comes from their hearts, and I know that.”
Comfort is fleeting for the family. They are confused by the randomness of this, unsure how it could happen to such an innocent kid and concerned for the Liberal player whose bat inadvertently struck Kaiser.
“I’m not going to speak a lot on that,” Chad Carlile said. “But I do want to say there is no heartache against that player. There is nothing but love, and there always will be. I will never, ever look down on that young man.”
Kaiser’s grandparents expressed the same sentiments. They are concerned about the well-being of the player and his family and want him to understand that what happened was a terrible accident, with no blame.
“It was just a wrong-place, wrong-time accident,” Kim Carlile said. “All summer long, Kaiser had picked up those bats and returned to the dugout.”
The Bee Jays return to action in the NBC World Series on Tuesday night against the Seattle Studs. The Carlile family believes the team is gaining strength and focus from their son and grandson.
“We’re here now for this team,” Chad Carlile said. “It’s hard for me – I could easily crawl up in a corner and shadow myself. But there is no way my son would want that.
“Being that he can’t be here, we’ve decided that we’re going to step up and be here for this team. That’s what we want to do.”