39-year old Shannon Stone fatally fell 20 feet from his front row seat at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Thursday after reaching over the railing to catch a ball in the second inning of the game. Stone was in the vicinity of a foul ball and called for Hamilton to throw him the ball into the stands, as players frequently will do for foul balls.
While reaching to catch Hamilton's throw, Stone tumbled over to the wall while fans and players looked on in shock. Hamilton would walk in circles in the outfield in disbelief, undoubtedly questioning whether if he could have thrown it a little longer, it wouldn't have cost Stone's life.
While Hamilton would go on to have four RBIs over the course of the game, Rangers manager Ron Washington told ESPN he was unsure whether Hamilton might need Friday off to clear his mind.
Most players didn't know that Stone had died until after the game and reactions were strong for the players.
We had a very tragic accident tonight and one of our fans lost their life reaching over the rail trying to get a ball, said team president Nolan Ryan. 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.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of the whole thing is Stone's son was sitting next to him and witnessed the whole event. After seeing Stone fall, Oakland A's reliever Brad Ziegler told team personnel that Stone's son was up there by himself and someone needed to check up on him, according to the Associated Press. The Associated Press also reported Ziegler was in tears when he found out Stone didn't make it.
He had his arms swinging. He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was OK, Ziegler said. But when you find out he's not, it's just tough.
The fall is eerily similar to an accident that happened almost exactly a year ago at Rangers Ballpark. Last year another man, Tyler Morris, fell 30 feet while reaching for a foul ball. Fortunately for Morris he only suffered a fractured skull and sprained ankle from his fall.
This death is sure to raise issues within Major League Baseball and team stadium personnel on how to prevent similar accidents from happening. This is the second fall related death baseball has suffered this year, as a Colorado Rockies fan died in May trying to slide down a staircase. Ryan wasn't willing to talk after the game about what the team might do to prevent future accidents, but he will certainly have to think long and hard about making sure this doesn't happen again.