Rangers return to work in wake of tragedy
Despite grief, Hamilton in lineup as Texas hosts Oakland
ARLINGTON -- In a small alcove outside the Rangers' clubhouse, Josh Hamilton tried to explain what was going on with him and his family on a difficult Friday afternoon."Obviously, I could be better," Hamilton said. "There have been a lot of prayers. The Hamilton family is definitely grieving. I know a lot of other fans and players are, as well. It was just a freak accident. It's pretty surreal. It puts into perspective how someone's life can change unexpectedly." Hamilton was in the Rangers lineup on Friday, one day after Brownwood firefighter Shannon Stone died as a result of injuries sustained in a 20-foot fall from the front row of the left field seats into an area behind the out-of-town scoreboard. Stone fell while trying to catch a baseball that Hamilton had thrown him and his 6-year-old son, Cooper. Manager Ron Washington offered Hamilton a chance to take the night off. But Hamilton declined. "The obligation that I have to this organization is nothing that would benefit me from not playing and trying to help those guys," Hamilton said. "I'm going to play. I talked with Wash. I talked with [outfield coach] Gary Pettis about if I feel like I need some time, can I take some time. There's nothing I can do by not playing." Hamilton has not reached out to Stone's widow, Jenny, but said at some point he will try to contact the family. "I can't imagine what they're going through right now," Hamilton said. "I can't imagine. All I can think about is praying for them and knowing that God has a plan. You don't always know what that plan is when those things happen, but you will." The incident took place with the Athletics batting in the second inning. Hamilton had already retrieved one foul ball and thrown it to a ballgirl sitting in foul territory. "Behind me I heard someone say 'Hey Hamilton' how about the next one.' Hamilton said. "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. I just remember it happened in slow motion. As soon as it happened, I couldn't help think what was going on behind that fence." Stone was conscious and talking when he was taken from the ballpark by ambulance and transported to John Peter Smith hospital in Fort Worth. Hamilton was told that by people who witnessed the fall. But Stone died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. "I immediately thought he would be OK," Hamilton said. "When I found out afterward he had passed away, it was a shock. I can't imagine how the Stone family feels. My heart and prayers go out to them." Hamilton said he and his wife, Katie, sat up late into the night talking about what happened. His three daughters stayed up late as well. "She was there to talk to me if I needed to," Hamilton said. "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." "That's one of the main things I remember. It's definitely on my mind and in my heart. I can't stop praying today for them." Washington said he would have understood if Hamilton had decided not to play Friday night. "I don't think you can ever stop thinking about it in 24 hours, but there is a balance and he wants to get out there and see if he can handle the balance," Washington said. "I thought he was a great husband for his wife and family last night. He certainly proved he is the man of the house." The Rangers held their own team prayer meeting on Friday afternoon before their game with the Athletics. "It's pretty obvious it's a pretty somber mood in here," infielder Michael Young said. "Baseball is not the first thing on our minds. It's difficult. There is a family and a child involved. This is a game that is important to all of us and we work hard to be very successful. But that takes a back seat. This hits home to the people in here that have children and families." Almost all Rangers players are accommodating in tossing baseballs into the stands, whether it is a foul ball, a third out or just another baseball being taken out of play. "It could have been me out there," outfielder David Murphy said. "I can't imagine what Josh is feeling right now. Obviously nobody is blaming him but it has got to be tough to be in that situation thinking, 'What if I did this or what if I did that?' Players throw balls to fans all the time. "It feels weird that we're playing a baseball game in light of what is going on. We've never dealt with anything like this. You don't know how to react. We definitely have heavy hearts and it's going to be that way for awhile." Washington said he still expects his team to be ready to play the Athletics, and it took a four-game winning streak into Friday night's game. "I expect us to continue to play baseball the way we have been playing," Washington said. "We all feel badly over what happened, but nobody has canceled this game. We've got to play. We're not going to use what happened yesterday as an excuse for not playing baseball. "You get on your knees, say your prayers and live with a power higher than you. We all as individuals do what we can do and move on. You don't forget, but you move on."
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.