Rangers express regret, support for family of fan
Ryan calls fatal accident 'sad,' team sets up memorial fund
ARLINGTON -- The day after what club president Nolan Ryan called "one of the saddest things" he has experienced at a ballpark, the Rangers set up a memorial fund for the family of Brownwood fireman Shannon Stone.Stone died on Thursday night as the result of injuries sustained in a 20-foot fall from the left-field seats into an area behind the out-of-town scoreboard during a game against the A's at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Flags flew at half-staff on Friday at the Ballpark and both teams were planning to wear a black ribbon on their uniforms for the game. A moment of silence will also be observed and information on the memorial fund will be made through the Texas Rangers Foundation. Contributions can be made to the Memorial Account in Honor of Shannon Stone.
"It's a very, very sad day for the Texas Rangers organization with the tragedy we had last night," Ryan said Friday afternoon. "It hit us at the very core of who we are and what we are about in making memories and a family experience."Last night we had a father and son at the game and had a tragic incident. It drives to the core of what we are." Major League Baseball released a statement as well: "All of us at Major League Baseball are shocked and saddened over the tragic death of Mr. Stone last evening. Our thoughts and prayers are with his son and his entire family. Major League Baseball has the utmost sensitivity to the safety of all the fans that come to our ballparks. Our players are encouraged to be fan-friendly and we will carefully review this incident with our clubs to continue to ensure a safe environment for our fans." Stone and his six-year-old son Cooper, both Rangers fans, were sitting in the front row of the left-field seats. In the second inning of Thursday's game, Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton retrieved a foul ball that had caromed in his direction. Stone was calling for the ball and Hamilton tossed it in his direction. Stone leaned too far over the railing, caught the ball and then fell headfirst into the area behind the scoreboard. He was immediately attended to by ballpark personnel and taken by ambulance to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. He died en route with his son sitting in the front seat of the ambulance. Ryan said he spoke with Stone's widow Jenny on Friday. She asked Ryan if he could do something about the proliferation of video taken of the incident that has swept across television and the internet. "She is very concerned about her son and the impact on him and rightfully so," Ryan said. "As a father and a grandfather, my heart goes out to the family, Jenny Stone and her son Cooper." The Rangers also expressed concern about the impact of the tragedy on their players. Hamilton is of a particular concern since he is the one who tossed the baseball in Stone's direction, but it is a practice that has become common and routine in baseball. The Rangers made a staff counselor available on Friday to help players and other employees to deal with the situation. Hamilton was in the lineup as of two hours before game time. "I don't want to specifically focus on Josh, but if any player feels they need time away, we would be open to that," Ryan said. "If a player comes in and said he is not prepared to play, we will be sympathetic to that. It comes down to the individual and how they process a tragedy of this nature. "This was one of those freak accidents that happen." It was the second incident in just over a year in which a fan took a severe fall from the stands. Tyler Morris survived a 30-foot fall at the Ballpark last year. At the time, the Rangers were told that the railings in front of their seating decks were higher than required in international building codes. They were told that again on Friday but that did not satisfy the Rangers. "The fact that we have had two incidents in two years is disturbing," Ryan said. "As an organization we're going to look into this. Our No. 1 concern is the safety of our fans. We're going to do what we have to do to make the stadium as safe as we possibly can." The Rangers covered the opening between the left-field seats and the scoreboard with a tarp on Friday. Ryan said that was to keep fans and other people from looking at the area where Stone landed. Despite the incident, Ryan does not want to discourage his players from tossing baseballs in the stands. "I'm no different than anybody else as a baseball fan," Ryan said. "When I went to the ballpark, my hope was to get a foul ball. It is part of the fan experience. I know as a former player that when you are on the field and if you have the opportunity and have a child asking for a baseball, you would like to be accommodating. "This just happened to be a situation that turned into a great tragedy. I'd like to hope the situation doesn't come up again."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.