July 08, 2011
This kind of thing isn't supposed to happen at the ballpark.
But it has.
He was trying to catch a ball flipped into the stands by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton(notes) but apparently lost his balance and fell head-first in a space between the 14-foot outfield fence and the grandstand near the Oakland Athletics bullpen.
"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. "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 Brownwood (Texas) Bulletin identified the man as Shannon Stone, a lieutenant in that town's fire department and a fireman for 18 years.
Horrifying TV replays from the Oakland broadcast show Stone positioning himself to catch Hamilton's throw, then tumbling over a railing as his young son watched. A man next to Stone tried to hold onto him, but couldn't.
[Related: Fan's death was an unfair accident]
It's the second fatal fall at a major league ballpark this season. In May, a fan at Coors Field fell down a stairwell and died. Also, last July at Rangers Ballpark, a fan fell 30 feet from the second deck of seats while trying to catch a foul ball and suffered a fractured skull and sprained ankle.
Ryan said Hamilton and the rest of the club were made aware of what happened.
"We spoke to the ballclub, they understood what has happened and we spoke to Josh," Ryan said. "I think as any of us would be, Josh is very distraught over this, as the entire team is."
What must be going through the mind of not only the boy, but also Hamilton? Obviously, what happened wasn't his fault but it would only be human nature to feel guilty. And, as most fans realize, Hamilton is quite human.
"They had him on a stretcher. He said, 'Please check on my son. My son was up there by himself.' The people who carried him out reassured him. 'Sir, we'll get your son, we'll make sure he's OK,"' Ziegler said. "He had his arms swinging. He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was okay. But when you find out he's not, it's just tough."
This has to be the saddest possible event at a baseball game. A man goes to a ballgame with his son — it's the ultimate American experience — and he dies trying to catch a ball. It's hard to comprehend.
As for the need to raise the railings, or not throw balls into the stands ... that's the crazy part. How many thousands of games happen where nobody gets hurt, and now this?
Video of the fall probably can be found elsewhere on the Internet, but be advised: It is profoundly upsetting.
Maybe more cogent thoughts will come to me in the morning.
UPDATE: The Rangers will lower flags to half-mast at the ballpark Friday and will hold a moment of silence before Friday night's game. The Rangers also plan to hold a press conference featuring team president Nolan Ryan at 3:30 ET.
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