Last weekend, tragedy struck at an amateur baseball team game in Kansas. The Liberal Bee Jays were playing the San Diego Waves during a National Baseball Congress game when 9-year-old bat boy Kaiser Carlile got accidentally hit by a practice swing and ended up in critical condition. Sadly, the team released a statement early Monday morning stating that Kaiser had succumbed to his injuries and passed away at a local hospital.
There have been two Bee Jays games since Kaiser's death, and the Carlile family has been to both of them. On Tuesday night, Kiercy Carlile, Kaiser's 6-year-old sister, threw the first pitch at the game. It was an amazing tribute to her brother, who was the team's only bat boy and a very dedicated fan. The family has leaned on their Bee Jays family to help them through this very difficult time, and the team, in turn, has leaned on the Carlile family.
This is not the first time that the safety of bat boys has been called into question. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I remember the 2002 World Series -- featuring the San Francisco Giants -- like it was yesterday. Dusty Baker was the manager of the Giants and the time and his adorable 3-year-old son, Darren Baker, often helped his dad's team out by picking up bats. On this particular night, Darren ran to pick up a bat but was in the line of traffic as players were racing to home plate. If it hadn't been for the then-first-baseman J.T. Snow snatching up Darren, the next runner would have ran him over on the way to home. After that incident, the "Darren Baker rule" was instated in the MLB, which meant that professional teams could no longer have bat boys under the age of 14. (This rule does not apply to the Liberal Bee Jays, because they are an amateur team.)
I grew up a big Oakland A's fan, and it is important to me that baseball continues to attract young fans. However, safety is obviously a bigger priority. I think what happened to Kaiser Carlile was a terrible freak accident and no one is to blame here, but hopefully in the future we can look at ways to make young fans' participation in baseball safer. Activities like throwing a first pitch with no bats around, like Kiercy did at last night's game, might be a safer way to include kids in the game.
Related: Take Your Kids Out to the Ballgame
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