Shannon Stone, a firefighter for 18 years, wanted to make his kid’s night at the Rangers-Oakland game at Rangers Ballpark on Thursday night. He and his son had travelled all the way from Brownwood, nearly a three-hour drive from the stadium in Arlington. He wore a white T-shirt and a blue Texas Rangers hat while his young son wore a red T-shirt and a red Rangers hat.
In the second inning, Oakland A’s outfielder, Conor Jackson, hit a screaming foul ball that ricocheted into left field. Josh Hamilton, the Rangers’ left fielder and the reigning AL MVP elected by fans to start his fourth consecutive All-Star game next week, picked it up. Shannon Stone, hoping to make his son happy by giving him the ball, called for Hamilton to throw him the ball. Hamilton obliged and tossed the ball toward Stone.
As Hamilton’s throw came in short, Stone stretched to grab it. Stone caught the ball in both hands but lost his balance in the process. The man sitting next to Stone tried unsuccessfully to grab his leg. Stone tumbled over the outfield railing and fell head first 20 feet onto concrete.
Stone was conscious after the fall. When paramedics arrived to stabilize Stone and take him to a hospital, Stone told them that his son was "up there by himself" and asked them to check on the boy.
Stone went into full arrest while being transported by ambulance and was pronounced dead at a Fort Worth hospital less than an hour after his fall.
"We had a very tragic accident tonight and one of our fans lost their life reaching over the rail trying to get a ball," team president Nolan Ryan said somberly after the Rangers' 6-0 victory over Oakland. "As an organization, and as our team members and our staff, we're very heavy-hearted about this, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family."
The area where the man landed was out of sight from the field.
Ryan described Hamilton as being "very distraught over this, as the entire team is."
Former president George W. Bush, who used to be the team's managing general partner, was sitting in the front row with Ryan near the Texas dugout when the accident happened. Ryan left moments later while Bush remained in the seats.
Ryan said Bush was aware of what was happening.
It is so tragic that a man had to die while trying to catch a ball for his son. It is terrible that the son had to witness the whole thing. And it is really heartbreaking that the son will grow up without a father.
And it’s impossible not to have sympathy for Josh Hamilton. The foul ball that he threw into the stands may haunt him for the rest of his life, especially when he knows that if he just had thrown the ball a little farther, the boy’s father would still be alive.
Hamilton almost lost his baseball career to drugs before it even got started, and he only put his life back together by putting himself into the Lord’s hands. He is still haunted by his demons. When it looked like he might slip back into drinking a couple of years ago, he swore off alcohol. We can only hope that Hamilton will be strong enough to put this tragic incident behind him in the coming months.