What 9-year-old Kaiser Carlile lacked in height, he made up for with spirit.
On opening day just two months ago, Kaiser popped up in the dugout for Kansas’s semi-pro baseball team the Liberal Bee Jays, sporting a T-shirt, shorts and “Minions” socks. He told them he wanted to be the new batboy.
“He showed a real desire to do things right,” Liberal Bee Jays spokesman Roy Allen told The Washington Post in an interview. “He wanted to impress our players and coaches so much. He was the obvious choice for us.”
So he put on a Bee Jays T-shirt and helmet and became one of the guys.
“He really gained 30 big brothers this year,” Allen said, “and there are 30 guys on our team right now who are grieving this loss.”
Kaiser died Sunday after he was hit in the head Saturday during a practice swing — a tragedy that shook the baseball community.
Over the past several days, teammates shared stories about the little boy they called a “spark plug.” Fans donned blue bracelets in his memory and competitors wrote his initials “KC” on their baseball caps. Another team’s batboy wore a Bee Jay’s T-shirt in his honor.
The National Baseball Congress has since banned the use of batboys and batgirls for the rest of its World Series competition in Kansas.
“There is no anger about what happened,” Kaiser’s father, Chad Carlile, said Monday during a news conference. “I don’t want any blame. We need to look to the positive on it. It’s just a freak accident, and you can’t change it.”
Kaiser was a soon-to-be fourth-grader — a solid student with a knack for baseball and an eye for art, his principal, Kathy Fitzgerald told the Wichita Eagle. His team said he never understood a rainout, a canceled game or a missed opportunity because, to Kaiser, baseball was the dream. Unlike other batboys, he went on the road with his teammates. He was there before every batting practice and stuck around until all the players had gone to their cars.
He once hollered at Bee Jays general manager Mike Carlile, a distant cousin, when Carlile rescheduled a game time without telling the batboy.
“The game had started, I’m behind the dugout watching the game, and I hear, ‘Hey, Mike!'” he said at a news conference, according to the Wichita Eagle. “There’s Kaiser, running with his helmet. He’s like, ‘You made me late!'”
“Kaiser will always hold a special place in my heart,” Bee Jays catcher Brady Cox said. “I’ll never step on the field and not think of him.”
“He was our teammate,” Bee Jays pitcher Kadon Simmons said. “He was our spark plug. Without him, no one would run; we’d have no energy.
“It might be the 50th game of the season over the summer, over two months. He’d still be there, ready to go, jumping around, being crazy.”
Kaiser’s father said the team treated his Kaiser like one of their own.
“They showed him how to be a good sport, how to be competitive,” Chad Carlile said, according to Wichita Eagle sports columnist Bob Lutz. “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.”
It was the third inning on Saturday and the Bee Jays had one out. A batter had bunted and Kaiser ran to grab a bat as the on-deck hitter took a practice swing. Kaiser— who was wearing a helmet — was struck in the head. “It was a matter of everything aligning in the wrong way at the wrong time,” Allen said.
Some said it sounded like a bat cracking a baseball. A fan told KAKE-TV he heard a scream and the umpire heard Kaiser hit the ground.
“I turned around, saw him on the ground,” umpire Mark Goldfeder, a paramedic, told USA Today Sports. “He got up and was holding his shoulder, took a few steps and then collapsed. Obviously at that point I recognized there was a more serious problem than just being hit potentially in the shoulder.”
One player scooped Kaiser up in his arms but he just hung there — limp.
“When I got to the player that had picked him up, I saw he was unresponsive and told him to put him on the ground,” Goldfeder told USA Today. “I started assessing him and quickly realized he was in critical condition.”
Kaiser was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died a day later.
“I felt sad for the family and the team and the young man who actually hit him because you could tell he was very distraught, so hopefully he’s not hurt by it in any great way,” fan Mickie Schmith told KAKE-TV.
The Bee Jays went on to win Saturday’s game — an “emotional win,” Allen said. Then they won Sunday’s game, advancing to the semifinals.
“I think this tragic situation has really brought this group even closer together,” he said. “It could have been something where our team completely fell apart. They said this is what Kaiser would have wanted us to do — to be on the baseball field.”
The players said they want to win this year’s NBC World Series for Kaiser.