Baseball can mean so much to a young kid. Like playing music or skiing or a thousand other things, the game either comes early or it likely doesn’t come at all.
Once the game sets in, it can fill up the spaces in a young child’s heart. The statistics, history, and art of the game — the beauty of it all — can take root and continue to grow for as long as the child wants it to be there.
One of the ways to let the game in is to play it, of course. Little league teams, traveling teams, pick-up games on a sandlot or on a beach, wherever and whenever a group of like-minded kids and coaches can gather together — and find an impartial umpire to make the calls that need to be made — a game can take flight. And it’s a wonderful thing when it does.
Every game needs to have players, coaches, umpires and, preferably, fans in the stands; and someone to pick up the bats and shag the balls when they inevitably go astray. There’s a long tradition of using batboys to pick up after the players, and if it helps the kids who do it to feel a part of the game, then all the better. This small act helps to insure that the game is passed on from one generation to the next.
There was a young boy, at the age of nine, in Liberal, Kansas, by the name of Kaiser Carlisle. He was serving as a batboy for the Liberal Bee Jays, one of the five teams in the Jayhawk Collegiate League headquartered in Wichita, Kansas. He could have once been any one of us who now reads or writes for this website: a young kid who loved the game and was happy to do whatever he could to be a part of it. Even though I never met him, I know what he thought about the game. He felt the same way all of us once did.
An errant warmup swing by one of the Liberal team’s players caught Kaiser in the head on Saturday and, even though he was wearing a helmet, Kaiser suffered a head injury and died as a result.
It’s hard to know exactly what to say at a moment like this, when an accidental event ends one life and leaves so many others wondering why it had to happen this way. But it’s important to make the effort, because this young boy gave his life in the service of this game that we love so much. He didn’t drown in a pond or set off fireworks in a reckless manner or do any of the other things that might lead to a tragic result for a boy with his whole life ahead of him. He was simply trying to become a part of the game that he loved.
There’s a line from William Shakespere’s Hamlet that was quoted by Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and probably hundreds of others through the years: “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will.” In other words, what we do in the course of our lives is up to us, but the how and when of our entry into this world — as well as our departure from it — is not ours to know.
The dangers inherent in being a batboy aren’t real easy to see. We all remember Dusty Baker’s young son Darren nearly getting run over in game five of the 2002 World Series in San Francisco. J.T. Snow was there to snatch Darren Baker up that day and protect him from harm. The divinity that was looking out for Darren Baker that day wasn’t there for Kaiser Carlisle between innings on Saturday. It’s terribly regrettable that this was the case, and Kaiser’s parents will no doubt blame themselves for what happened to him, along with the player who had the bat in his hands for that ill-fated swing. They would all do anything, I’m sure, to change the outcome of that moment. But as Shakespeare pointed out, there wasn’t any way for them to do that.
I, for one, salute Kaiser Carlisle and acknowledge his sacrifice for the game. And I’m tremendously sad that things happened as they did.
Thanks Kaiser Carlisle, for giving all y0u had to the game we love.