As Kaiser Carlile, the 9-year-old Liberal Bee Jays bat boy who died Sunday, was being honored on the field before Liberal’s NBC World Series game against Seattle on Tuesday night, the player whose on-deck swing resulted in the horrible accident was standing a few yards away, inside the Bee Jays’ first-base dugout.
I could not take my eyes off of him. I have not been able to stop thinking about him since the tragedy occurred in the second inning of Liberal’s game against the San Diego Waves on Saturday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Kaiser Carlile is an angel. When his 8-year-old sister, Keirsie, threw out a ceremonial pitch before Tuesday’s game, a bigger-than-usual Tuesday crowd gave her – and Kaiser – a standing ovation. Their father and mother, grandfather and grandmother were also on the field.
The Eagle has not identified the Liberal player involved in the accident.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
But just because he hasn’t been publicly identified doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. Or that many of the people following this unfathomable story aren’t aware of his identify.
He’s a young man not much older than Kaiser. He’s a baseball player who was doing what baseball players do when, suddenly and shockingly, his world changed.
He couldn’t bring himself to play in Liberal’s game Sunday, but was in the lineup Tuesday. Though returning to the lineup, the player is not doing interviews. What could he possibly say?
He was one of the first Liberal players on the field before the game to play catch. He stopped for a time to talk to some friends, then resumed warming up. Occasionally, a Bee Jays teammate would slap him on the back or give him a hug. They were protective of him.
As Kaiser’s family gathered on the field with Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell and other dignitaries, the Liberal player stood inside the dugout with his head down. Teammates, standing along the railing outside the dugout urged him to join them. He obliged.
After Keirsie’s pitch, everyone inside Lawrence-Dumont Stadium stood and cheered. That moment, or something like it, was the reason many were at the game.
They were pulling for Liberal.
Really, though, they were pulling for Kaiser. And his family. And giving them whatever they could by their presence.
People have connected to Kaiser. They’ve heard enough of his story to develop a bond, a kindred spirit. He is loved by those who never met him; cherished by those whose hearts are broken.
After "The Star-Spangled Banner" was performed – while players from Liberal and Seattle stood side-by-side along the first-base line – the Liberal players returned to their dugout. And Kaiser’s family went to wish them luck.
Kaiser’s grandmother, Kim Carlile, embraced the Liberal player whose swing struck her sweet grandson. He remained in her clutches for several seconds.
Keirsie went through the line quickly, then came back to the Liberal player who needs all the hugs he can get. She reached up to him and he picked her up and hugged her.
Kaiser’s grandparents told me Tuesday that Keirsie’s favorite Bee Jay is the player who will forever be connected to her brother’s death.
This is the worst story imaginable. It’s made everybody feel terrible. But the Bee Jays have baseball to play. Their solidarity is commendable. They know Kaiser would have wanted them to play.
So they play.
Even the young kid who will live the rest of his life surrounded by this tragedy.
It was comforting to see Kaiser’s family reach out to him in such a forgiving way. They know what happened was a freak accident that will never be understood. They also know the player needs their love and support.
For now, the Bee Jays are the mother ship of consolation. They are dealing with a situation no one could imagine and they are supporting each other.
Kaiser wasn’t just the Bee Jays’ bat boy. He was their little buddy. They adored him and took him in as one of their own. He adored them back.
Kaiser was having the best two months of his life. It took a horrific accident for the rest of us to begin to understand what so many already knew – that he was a wonderful, sensitive, caring kid who felt so special being a Liberal Bee Jays bat boy.
Let’s hope that the Liberal player, not even 10 years older than Kaiser, is able to find peace. Kaiser’s family has given him a good start, embracing him and loving him.
No one knows the future. But there will always be a connection between the young bat boy and the young player.
The young player, hopefully, will grow old and will be healthy. I’ll be pulling for him and hoping that all of his dreams come true.
So, too, will Kaiser Carlile. I’m sure of it.