You see it every time you visit a ballpark and on every television broadcast of a Major League Baseball game: fans leaning over a railing to snag a foul ball, a home run, or a baseball flipped into the stands by a player after the third out in an inning.
Thursday night in Arlington, Texas, a fan eager to catch a foul ball tossed into the outfield seats by All-Star slugger Josh Hamilton flipped over the railing and plummeted 20 feet behind the outfield wall.
The man, identified as 39-year-old firefighter Shannon Stone, was conscious as he was placed on a stretcher and taken to an ambulance but reportedly “went into full arrest” and died en route to John Peter Smith hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:20 p.m.
Stone’s young son was with him at the game and watched the fall along with other fans in the front of the left field seating section. Ronnie Hargis was seated next to Stone and tried to grab the fan as he fell.
“He went straight down. I tried to grab him, but I couldn’t. I tried to slow him down a little bit.”
One year ago another fan fell 30 feet from the upper deck while reaching for a foul ball at Rangers Ballpark. Tyler Morris — also a firefighter — fractured his skull and sprained an ankle but survived.
“It was a total accident,” Morris said after he was released from the same hospital where Stone was pronounced dead. “It could have happened to anyone.”
And less than two months ago, a 27-year-old man fell 20 feet and died after hitting his head on concrete at a Colorado Rockies game.
Athletics relief pitcher Brad Ziegler saw Stone on the stretcher and was in tears after the game when he heard the fan had died.
“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.”
Understandably, Hamilton was said to be “very distraught” after the game. Rangers manager Ron Washington said he might give the slugger a day of Friday to “clear his mind.”