July 08, 2011
One day after being part of the tragic accident that resulted in Shannon Stone's death, Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton(notes) returned to work with a heavy heart.
The All-Star left fielder said he watched "in slow motion" as the 39-year-old Stone fell nearly 20 feet after Hamilton routinely tossed him a ball in the left-field stands during the second inning of Thursday's game. Stone later died from his injuries on his way to the hospital and, like the rest of us, Hamilton was left searching for answers to the senseless tragedy.
"I understand there's nothing you can do to change it now," [Hamilton said.]
Hamilton, who has battled drug addiction and is now a born-again Christian, said he would be praying for the Stone family. But talk about a tough thing to cope with: Hamilton said he could hear Stone's 6-year-old son, Cooper, "screaming" for his father after the fall. The father and son duo had reportedly stopped at a sporting goods store on the way to the game to buy Cooper a new glove in hopes of snagging a ball.
Here's Hamilton's recounting of the incident (full transcript):
"The first [foul] ball I got I threw it to the ball girl. [...]
"Behind me I heard someone say 'Hey Hamilton how about the next one?' I turned around and Stone was the first guy I saw sitting there with his son. I gave him a nod and I got the next one and threw it in that direction. [...]
"They were the first ones I saw. When I got it, I found them again and threw it in that direction. If the same situation came up and this hadn't happened, I'd do it again."
Hamilton said he will play in Friday night's game against the Oakland Athletics — "There's nothing I can do by not playing," he said — and that he would continue to throw baseballs to fans.
He did say, however, that the incident will probably cause him to judge each situation a little more closely before he throws a ball into the stands.
"You do it so many times you just don't think about it. At the same time, as a player throwing the ball, you don't know what's going through that person's mind who's going to try and catch the ball. It's something to take a look at."
Before Hamilton spoke with the media, Rangers team president Nolan Ryan said that grief counseling would be made available to all players plus the emergency responders at Rangers Ballpark. Hamilton gave no indication that he would participate in the counseling, but did say that his wife Katie and his three children helped him get through a tough night after he returned home.
"She (Katie) stayed up with me and talked with with me and gave me some encouragement and support. She was there to talk to me if I needed to. The kids stayed up to talk to me for a while. It was just hard for me, hearing the little boy screaming for his daddy after he had fallen, and then being home with my kids, really hit home last night."
Hamilton says he plans on reaching out to the family and helping them when the time is right. He will join the Rangers in wearing black ribbons on their uniforms and observing a moment of silence before Friday night's game. The team has also lowered flags at the ballpark to half mast and set up a memorial account in Shannon Stone's name if you are interested in helping his son and wife.