Friday, July 08, 2011

Rangers fan dies after falling over fence at Rangers Ballpark

G.J. McCarthy / Staff Photographer
Players and fans look on after a man fell trying to catch a baseball during the Texas Rangers game against the Oakland Athletics Thursday, July 7, 2011 in Arlington.

Man was reaching for ball tossed into stands by player

A fan reaching to catch a ball died after he fell over the left-field wall at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington during the second inning of Thursday night’s game.

The man had been reaching over the rail for a foul ball tossed into the stands by Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton during the game against the Oakland A’s.

The city manager of Brownwood confirmed that the man, Shannon Stone, was a firefighter there, the Brownwood News reported late Thursday.

Stone, who was sitting in the left-field lower-level reserved seats, fell about 20 feet in the area behind a wall supporting a scoreboard.

“We are deeply saddened to learn that the man who fell has passed away as a result of this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” said Nolan Ryan, Rangers CEO and president.

It is routine for players to throw balls that are out of play into the stands.

“As anyone would be, Josh is very distraught about this, as the whole team is,” Ryan said.

Stone was treated by Rangers medical personnel before being taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

The Rangers’ TV broadcast did not show the incident, but the A’s broadcast did, returning to it during a break in the action on the field.

Ronnie Hargis was sitting next to Stone, who was at the game with his young son. The men had been talking to each other before the accident.

“He went straight down. I tried to grab him, but I couldn’t. I tried to slow him down a little bit,” Hargis said.

Witnesses said the victim’s head was bleeding badly.

David Dodson was at the game with his daughter and saw the fall.

“Just as the ball hit his hand, it kind of threw him off balance and he just went head-first,” Dodson said. “It looked awful because you knew there was no way he was going to land on his feet. … The way he fell, it looked like it was just straight on his head.”

Oakland relief pitcher Brad Ziegler said he thought Stone was going to be OK after the fall because he was telling medical personnel to “please check on my son up there.”

Rangers manager Ron Washington said several players saw the incident unfold. The Rangers played the rest of the game, winning 6-0, without knowing the spectator had died.

“We knew about it, but we didn’t know exactly what had happened,” he said.

On July 6, 2010, a fan plunged 30 feet from the upper deck at the stadium while trying to catch a foul ball during a game between the Rangers and the Cleveland Indians.

That man, 25-year-old Tyler Morris of Rio Vista, landed on several people below, suffering a fractured skull and a sprained ankle.

Ryan said after last year’s accident that he thought the stadium’s railing heights were adequate.

“The ballpark was built above specs, and we feel good about that,” Ryan said.

In 1994, 26-year-old Hollye Minter of Plano fell 35 feet from the upper deck during the home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Minter suffered fractured vertebrae, broken ribs and teeth, and shoulder and leg injuries.

After that incident, the Rangers raised some of the stadium’s railings and added warning signs.

Staff writer Gerry Fraley, WFAA-TV and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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