Competition doesn’t mean compassion takes a back seat. Isaiah Jarvis proved that with just five words and one gesture, offering support to opposing pitcher Kaiden Shelton and illustrating how Little Leaguers can make a global impact.
Isaiah called on his own experience when his team from Oklahoma faced Kaiden’s team from Texas in the Little League regional in Waco, Texas in August. With two strikes and the bases loaded, Kaiden needed a strike out and fired the ball as hard as he could right down the center of the plate.
As the ball approached, Isaiah didn’t think it would hit him, so he held his ground. But the pitch sailed, hit Isaiah on the cheek and knocked him down − to Kaiden’s horror. “I got hit many times myself, but nothing like that,” Kaiden said, “I thought I hurt him. I had never done that.”
For the first 10 seconds, Isaiah says, “I was scared of a concussion.” Coaches and medical staff rushed to his aid, then helped him to his feet. “When I stood up and grabbed my helmet and hat, I knew I was OK.”
But Kaiden wasn’t. “I didn’t feel good about myself,” he says.
Isaiah saw the concern on Kaiden’s face as he walked to first. Without thinking at the time, Isaiah trotted to the mound, hugged a despondent Kaiden and said, “Hey, you’re doing just great.”
Only later did Isaiah recall being in Kaiden’s position, hitting an opponent with a ball in the lead-up to the tournament in Waco. “I hit him in the head pretty hard. It didn’t enter my mind in the moment I went over to Kaiden,” he says. “But since then, I remembered it. That might have motivated me.”
When Kaiden’s teammates joined him on the mound, Isaiah returned to first base. Kaiden remained upset, though, and left the game moments later. Both players expected their exchange would be forgotten in the excitement of Kaiden’s team advancing to the World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
They were wrong. The video spread throughout the country and around the world.
“People want to see that there are good people in the world,” Kaiden said, “and showing good sportsmanship is a way to do it.” He returned to pitch twice in the Little League World Series. “With 20,000 people, it was nerve-wracking, but once I started throwing strikes, I focused on my team and didn’t worry.”
He’s also taken a page from Isaiah’s playbook of empathy, encouraging teammates and opponents alike. “If I see someone is down,” he says, “I try to make sure he’s OK.”
Months after their Musial moment, both boys still get noticed. Friends and strangers want to shake their hands. Even into October, a clerk at a convenience store recognized Isaiah and offered him a free pizza and slushy.
“People see him as a hero,” says Isaiah’s father, Austin. “The world is so divisive, but they saw a gesture between two young competitors who came together in compassion. I think the world is hungry for that.”
The two continued to give interviews together and play baseball through the fall. They even played together for a weekend in October on Isaiah’s traveling team, the Arkansas Sox.
Kaiden’s mom, Melody, is a high school teacher and she has seen post-pandemic how “kids are struggling to get back into interacting with one another. That moment made us realize there are good things in the world. And if our kids are leading the way, we’re doing something right.”