You hope and pray that you can make it through an entire baseball writing career without ever having to write a post like this, but this morning my luck has sadly run out.
According to numerous reports on Twitter last night (and, more specifically, ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett, who offers the most comprehensive read on the background of last night's incident), a Rangers fan by the name of Shannon Stone died last night after going over the railing in front of the lower reserved seats in left field, and falling some 20 feet down the narrow crevice between the seating bowl and the back of the left field scoreboard. Stone, an 18-year veteran of the Brownwood, Texas fire department, was attending the game with his young son, who was not harmed in the incident.
After Athletics right fielder Conor Jackson smashed a second-inning foul ball down the left field line that richocheted back onto the field close to where Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton was standing, Stone reportedly called for Hamilton to throw the ball to him. He did so, but Stone leaned too far over the railing while attempting to haul in the ball, lost his balance, and tumbled head-first down the crevice and into the concrete below. Paramedics immediately attended to Stone, who remained conscious despite suffering from heavy cranial bleeding, and he was transported to nearby John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.
Athletics reliever Brad Ziegler was in close proximity to the incident due to the location of the road bullpen in left-center field, and was reduced to tears after learning of Stone's passing: "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.' He had his arms swinging. He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was OK. But when you find out he's not, it's just tough."
According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Stone went into full cardiac arrest en route to the hospital, and was declared dead at 8:26 p.m. CDT -- less than one hour after the initial fall, and exactly one year and one day after last year's incident where Corinth, Texas firefighter Tyler Morris fell some 30 feet from the second deck behind home plate to the lower seating bowl. Morris sustained skull, foot, and ankle fractures in that incident, but survived.
Both clubhouses were closed after the Rangers' 6-0 victory, and team president Nolan Ryan addressed the incident during a post-game press conference: "As an organization and as team members and as a staff, we are very heavy-hearted about this and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. That’s where we are tonight, our thoughts are with them and in respect to the family we won’t have any other statement tonight. We don’t know what, as far as family members, are aware of what happened. In respect to that, we’re not going to give any further descriptions about the event tonight."
Ryan confirmed that both the team and Hamilton were "distraught" over what had taken place. Manager Ron Washington commented that Hamilton was "outward[ly] fine," but that he was going to have to deal with it in his own way, and that he was not prepared to discuss whether Hamilton was going to play on Friday night, or during any of the remaining three games leading up to the All-Star break.
Our thoughts are with Mr. Stone's family and friends during this difficult time.