Liberal, Kan. A hit starts another season of hope for the Liberal BeeJays and fans packed the bleachers to enjoy baseball again.
"It's exciting,” BeeJays fan Donna Benson said. “It's always fun in the summer to come out and watch the team."
For Kaiser Carlile's family, their seat on the Kaiser memorial bench near the field is comfortable, but watching a game at the ballpark again is bittersweet.
"We're starting now at a new beginning, trying to learn that you know, it won't go back to normal,” Kaiser’s dad Chad Carlile said.
Kaiser served as bat boy for the BeeJays and tragically passed away after an incident at the NBC World Series last year.
"He's in a better place but we felt like he needed to live on for us, for the family, for everybody,” BeeJays GM Mike Carlile said.
So before Friday night’s 2016 opening game, the team unveiled a statue at Brent Gould Field in his honor.
"It's kind of like leaving a legacy on this field for him,” BeeJays shortstop Cale O’Donnell said. “So he'll always be a part of the team now and that's going to be the first thing we see now when we come in here every day, is Kaiser."
The statue includes Kaiser's favorite saying, "Play hard, have fun," and looks identical to him.
"That is Kaiser," Kaiser’s mother Gayle Glenn said. “I mean his stature, his build, the way his foot is turned.”
The statue captures his personality too.
"It's just like it's almost him there, you know, he's holding a bat, it's like he's running, he's got a smile on his face,” Mike Carlile said. “That's how we choose to remember him."
Kaiser’s sister Kirsie took a selfie with her big brother’s statue. He was her right hand man.
“She’ll be able to have this for her kids growing up on down the road,” Chad Carlile said. “She’ll be able to say ‘this is your Uncle Kaiser’.”
The BeeJays got a 17-14 win for Kaiser on opening night and they hope his presence continues to comfort the family and community.
"Every time you come to the ball park, whether we're here or not, you can come look at the statue and put a smile on your face," Mike Carlile said.
Or at the very least, bring a little joy.
"I can see it from right here it just puts a smile on my face,” Chad Carlile said. “When the team said that he was a part of the BeeJays forever, I believed them, and I think they kind of hit it out of the park with the statue.”