PIERCETON — A South Whitley Elementary School student recently received national attention after a two-minute video of him went viral.
Kolt Kyler, 9, a third-grader at SWES, received the gift of a lifetime — tickets to Wrigley Field to spend the day with his father and his favorite team, the Chicago Cubs.
Knowing her son would be over-the-moon excited with the surprise, Natalie Kyler took a video of the moment — which has now been viewed more than 10 million times worldwide.
They Kylers had the tickets for two months before giving them to Kolt. His father, Andy Kyler, was waiting for the right moment — one that would show his son that hard work pays off.
The Saturday before Easter, Kolt woke up at 7:30 a.m. to take care of his animals before going to the baseball diamond to play for four hours. After baseball, he went with Andy to his great-grandma’s to do yardwork for a few hours before returning home to do his evening chores.
“I knew he was tired — I was tired,” Andy Kyler said.
Out in the barn with his 4-H gilts, Andy handed his son the envelope.
“I tested you a little bit today to see how you would react. I knew you were tired, but you never once complained. You worked hard,” Kyler told his son. “This is something here that you and I are going to do, and it’s going to take a whole day to do it, OK?
“Do you want to do it?”
Without hesitation, Kolt nodded “yes.”
“You don’t even know what it is — are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes,” Kolt replied.
He opened the envelope and was filled with raw emotion. He embraced his father and sobbed.
“Me and daddy are going to Wrigley Field,” he said to the camera.
In an interview with IN|Whitley County, Kolt said he didn’t care what was in the envelope — it could have been anything — even an invitation for another full day of work.
“I just like spending time with my dad,” Kolt said.
The video of the touching father-son moment was initially only intended for the Kyler family to share as a way to remember the day. Later, Natalie posted the video to her Facebook to share with friends.
“I tried talking her (Natalie) out of the video,” Andy Kyler said. “I knew I would get choked up, but she talked me into it.”
“I knew he was going to be thrilled. It was a sweet moment,” Natalie Kyler said.
The next day, their oldest daughter, Hannah, said she wanted to put the video on Twitter.
“I’m barely into texting — I’m not into that stuff,” Andy said. “But, I thought, he’s a good kid, it’s a neat story — might as well do it.”
The video has been retweeted more than 3,000 times, and even drew the attention of Cubs’ players, such as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester and David Ross — as well as the official Chicago Cubs Twitter account.
“That says a lot about who they really are — who are we to deserve that?” Andy Kyler said.
Rizzo gave the Kylers passes to the field for batting practice, and Lester offered his own parents’ seats to the Kylers for the game.
Kolt started stepping up his chores around the farm about eight months ago, when he told his parents he wanted to participate in the Whitley County 4-H Fair this year.
“I explained to him that the fair is fun week for the kids in 4-H — that doesn’t just happen. There’s a lot of work leading up to that,” Andy said. “I told him he needed to show responsibility if he was going to be in 4-H.”
Everyday after school — whether it’s snowing, raining, windy or sunny — Kolt waters the cows, feeds his pigs, helps his dad in the shop, fills grain buckets, sweeps the floors and has even earned the responsibility to drive the skidloader back into the barn.
“Anytime I’ve asked him to step up, he’s been there,” Andy said. “There’s a lot of parents trying to raise their kids with values — work hard and it will pay off. It’s not just us. We’re friends with a lot of families who are the same way. We would be just as excited if it was one of our friends or neighbors receiving this kind of attention.”
Passion for baseball
Kolt also participates in Cub Scouts, but baseball is his true passion. When he’s not in school or doing his chores, he’s watching games that he recorded or playing himself.
“I don’t have any hours left on my DVR,” Andy said. “It’s all baseball.”
Andy inspired Kolt’s interest in the Cubs.
“The Cubs have had my heart since I was 6 years old,” Andy said. “I still remember my first game at Wrigley — 1984 Cubs vs. Dodgers. When I got Kolts’ tickets in my hand, I got a lump in my throat. It’s so much better being on the dad side of it.”
Andy knows what it means for a son to spend a day at Wrigley with his dad.
“I think it’s going to be a special day. It was going to be special enough in the top seats, where we were at. We will never forget it.”
Kolt’s favorite player is shortstop Addison Russell. Someday, Kolt wants to be a Major League Baseball player himself.
Going viral is a lot for a 9-year-old — who has now appeared on shows like ESPN’s SportsCenter, Good Morning America, the Today Show and was interviewed to potentially take a trip to California to be on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
His mom is keeping a diary of everything.
“He was getting a little overwhelmed with everything,” Natalie Kyler said. “We’ve had a lot of people calling us. We’ve told him that we don’t have to keep doing these interviews if he doesn’t want to, but he does.”
The Kylers know their time in the spotlight is limited, but they’re enjoying every moment.
“We will never forget any of this,” Andy Kyler said. “It’s such a surreal thing.”
They’ve enjoyed the feedback they’ve received — from people they don’t even know.
“It’s nice to read the comments and see how it has effected other people,” Natalie said.
When their daughter, Hannah Himes, first posted the video on Twitter, she called Natalie to tell her that it was going viral.
“She put the call on speaker so I could hear all of the notifications coming through on her phone,” Natalie said. “It sounded like her phone had a virus. She called a couple hours later and said, ‘this is serious — this is a big deal.’ Then Yahoo! Sports contacted her.”
The Kylers haven’t been able to get much done in the past week, from news interviews at baseball practices to Andy’s coworkers at DePuy stopping to chat about the experience.
“I wish we could somehow thank everyone who has commented — there’s a lot of people who have taken their time to write a whole paragraph,” Andy said. “I’m proud that this has helped shine a bright light on our community and our school system — there’s a lot of good going on in our small towns and small communities — I’d say the same thing about Columbia City and Churubusco.”