Kaiser Collins was living the dream of most adolescent boys. At least that’s the way I see it in wake of an unthinkable tragedy that occurred at a baseball tournament in Wichita, Kan. this past weekend. Collins, 9, served as the bat boy for the Liberal (Kan.) Bee Jays — a summer baseball team for collegiate players — during the season and all the way into the NBC World Series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. I’m guessing he loved being around the older guys, probably seeking their approval and wanting to feel like a part of the team.
From the reaction to his death, the players did consider him a part of their team. That’s what made the fatal accident so emotional.
The players were clearly connected to Collins, related to the team’s general manager. Any death at a baseball game would be hard to overcome, but in this particular case, an unnamed player hit the young boy with his bat during the follow-through of a practice swing near the on-deck circle.
Collins received immediate medical attention but died the next day from his injuries.
The Bee Jays finished the game in which the accident occurred and kept advancing in the prestigious field toward the championship game as of the writing of this column. Somber players and coaches spoke about Collins in the aftermath of his death, and the words were able to show that they wanted to win the whole damn thing for the bat boy who didn’t get to finish the tournament.
I would guess that would make Collins pretty happy.
You see, young boys often find role models in those older than them. I can remember being in awe of my kindergarten teacher’s older sons, Ross and Trevor Short. In middle school, I started to identify with guys like Jon Hart and Ryan Nichols. Eventually, my freshman year was spent wanting to impress seniors like Jimmy Myers and Jimmy Hartigan.
Whether it was sheer stature, athletic prowess or a cool car with a flawless sound system, I wanted those guys to notice me. I probably tried too hard to be their friends in some cases but even being on the periphery could make you feel good.
I’ve got a feeling that’s what Collins did, by all accounts a bubbly, energetic kid who did his job well. It’s a shame that he probably never got to realize exactly how much he meant to those players and the effect he ended up having on their lives.
In the aftermath, reading the articles and watching the news reports on the incident, I found myself thinking not only of Collins and his family but the player involved. His name has managed to stay out of the media from what I can tell, and for that, I’m thankful.
In this day and age, info can leak, and those with a morbid curiosity will seek it out and share.
There’s no reason for any more damage to be done in this instance. There is a college-aged kid trying to rationalize his role in the death of a young boy who probably idolized him. I can’t think of a situation more unfair.
There’s nothing that could have been done.
Collins was likely doing the things he’d done all year. We’ll never know how or why he ended up in the path of that swing, but you can bet it was part of this boy’s routine to serve these players and make them happy.
In turn, Collins was making himself happy, living out that dream of being a part of the team.
People often talk of dying while doing what you love. I can imagine there’s something to that, but in this instance, the saying rings a bit hollow.
Kaiser Collins shouldn’t have died yet. He had so much more to experience in life, a chance to find other activities and people to love.
In his brief life, he did love baseball, and he did love those players. I just wish someone could let Kaiser know that he was accepted as part of that team, and he always will be.
When I think about it, most of us don’t receive that message, never knowing if we were part of the team or not. Maybe that’s just an inevitable part in the pursuit of approval from those we look up to.
All you can do is try.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.