A little boy is dead. The photo everyone's sharing today is not honouring him.

The photo shows a boy who’s just been fatally struck in the head. So why are people sharing it online?

On Saturday, a nine-year-old boy was fatally hit by an adult player’s bat during an amateur baseball game in Liberal, Kansas.

Freckled, bespectacled bat boy Kaiser Carlile was running to retrieve a bat during the National Baseball Congress World Series game when he strayed too close to the on-deck circle. That’s when a player’s practice swing accidentally struck him in the head — knocking him out cold, according to The Wichita Eagle.

Kaiser Carlile death
Kaiser Carlile, who died after being hit by a bat during a National Baseball Congress World Series game on Saturday afternoon. (Photo: GoFundMe)

Before the umpire and local emergency crew rushed to save the boy, one of the baseball players hugged the boy’s limp body to his chest.

In a photo capturing that emotional moment, the Liberal Bee Jays player Gavin Wehby clutches the uniformed boy to his chest. A patch of blood is visible in the little boy’s hair. His feet hang loosely toward the ground, his neck slack, his striped little-boy socks visible above tiny white sneakers.

The little boy’s condition in that moment is “unconscious” and “critical,” as umpire and paramedic Mark Goldfeder later told media.

In other words, while Kaiser is not yet lifeless in the image, he’s clearly unresponsive and hours away from death.

Following the photo being taken by an AP photographer, Kaiser was rushed to a local hospital’s intensive care unit in critical condition. There, he underwent emergency treatment before ultimately passing away on Sunday evening.

Despite — or perhaps, because of — the tragic circumstances behind the image, that photo has been circulated widely online today.

Australian media organisations including Fairfax and the Daily Mail have all made the editorial decision to publish the image. The latter two chose to run the photo on the front of their websites, where readers are confronted with the sad moment as soon as they click onto the page.


Mamamia will not be publishing the image, because there are other ways to honour Kaiser Carlile’s memory.

There are other ways to tell the story of his death — and more importantly, his life — than an image that shows him unresponsive, vulnerable and stripped of the dignity every person deserves.

One way to honour him is share stories of what he was like. That’s what several weeping Bee Jay players did on Monday, when they paid tribute to the little boy by remembering him as a smiling, funny “little brother”.

“When we showed up every day at the park, the smile on his face turned a smile on everyone else’s face,” coach Adam Anderson recalled.

“How can you not smile?,” he said of the boy’s positive attitude. “It made the game of baseball that much more enjoyable having him with us every day.”

The team has also printed out baseball cards sharing the fact that pink is his favourite colour, because it represents breast cancer awareness. That he loved trampolining. That he was a sucker for video games.

Those games have been distributed at baseball games since his death, with their profits doing to Kaiser’s grieving family.

The team has also changed their avatar and background image on Facebook to images of Kaiser, and have even set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to “defer medical expenses” and help Kaiser’s family with other needs. That crowdfunding effort has already surpassed its USD$100,000 target.

After a call has been embraced by fans, who have taken to wearing KC letters on their t-shirts, hats and signs.

Some tributes to Kaiser:

The baseball team’s general manager Mike Carlile pointed out on Sunday night about that there is no rule book on how to deal with the loss of a child. As Carlisle put it:

“No one wrote us a book to tell us how to do this. We’re just dealing with it the best way we know how and that’s to keep coming out and keep honoring Kaiser on the field.”

After Kaiser’s parents said they wanted the Bee Jays to proceed with their Sunday night game, the team won it 8-0 — with Kaiser’s family in the spectator stands.

In other words, they did their jobs. But they did their jobs respectfully, sharing only details that would make Kaiser’s family proud.

So today, let’s share tributes to Kaiser. But let’s not share the saddest picture ever taken of him.

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