Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A day at the ballpark turned tragic for a fan while trying to catch a ball at a Texas Rangers game Thursday night.
In the second inning of the Rangers-Athletics game, 39-year-old Shannon Stone tried to catch a foul ball tossed to him by Rangers All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton.
Stone fell over the railing, 20 feet to the concrete below, and suffered head injuries. He was rushed to a Fort Worth hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Stone was standing next to his 6-year-old son when he leaned over the railing to catch the baseball. It’s something fans do dozens of times a game. But in Stone’s case, the innocent act of catching a baseball from an all-star turned deadly.
“It’s just very tragic to see something like that happen because it’s just a very fun event for a family,” said baseball fan Amber Peterson. “When you are at a fun event and you have something like that, it’s horrible. I feel bad for Josh Hamilton too. I hear he is pretty devastated about the whole thing,” said Twins fan Marianne Laliberte.
Stone, a firefighter from Brownwood, Texas, was conscious and asking about his son when he was taken out of the stadium, but he later died at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.
“It was just so sad, and to see that he was with his little boy. He obviously watched his father fall to his death,” said Twins fan Lisa Connolly.
After hearing the news, the Twins released a statement saying, “It’s a tragedy and a freak accident. Our hearts go out to the family of the victim.”
Twins officials said Target Field was built with fan safety in mind. Left-center field is only about eight feet off the ground, and railings and flower planters protect fans. Right field is higher, but more of the same safety measures apply. And the Twins don’t have seats in the lower part of straight-away center.
The highest part of the outfield is about 35 feet off the ground, but barriers and drink railings were also added for protection. Fans say they aren’t worried about their safety, but what happened in Arlington is something they will think about.
“I don’t think it should deter people, but they should keep in mind that accidents can happen,” said Twins fan Dustin Hanson.
“Next time we go to a sporting event, it will be in the back of our minds, definitely,” said Twins fan Heather Schinke.
Baseball officials said it’s really hard to compare ballparks. The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington opened in 1994 and Target Field opened last year, and they are different in many ways.
Rangers team officials said they are reviewing safety measures at the stadium in light of this tragedy, and major league baseball is also reviewing the incident. However, neither organization will comment on whether or not changes will be made.
A year and a day ago from this accident, another Rangers fan fell 30 feet from the upper deck to the lower deck, but that fan did survive.