The tragic story of a Rangers fan who died after falling 20 feet while reaching for a ball tossed into the stands couldn't have been sadder. Except for the guy who threw that ball, Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton is a player who's widely known battle with drug and alcohol addiction has put him in the hearts of many fans. He was open about his battle, and he let everyone in on his fight. His talent was always there, but everyone knew that if he could control his demons off the field, he would be a super star on it. That was proven when he was named the AL MVP in 2010 and put on a spectacular showing at that year's Home Run derby.
Now, a harmless action, which has been done countless times by countless other ballplayers has put even more pressure on him.
Shannon Stone, a 39-year-old firefighter from Brownwood, Texas, asked Hamilton for a foul ball hit by Conor Jackson. Josh tossed the ball up to him, Stone reached for it, then fell head first 20 feet into a gap. He was conscious when paramedics reached him and asked to make sure someone knew where his son was. He was pronounced dead hours later.
Rangers president Nolan Ryan made a statement after the incident:
“We had a very tragic accident tonight and one of our fans lost their life reaching over the rail trying to get a ball. 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.”
Let's hope that Hamilton understands that he is not at fault here. The MLB and Texas Rangers will assuredly look into the situation to see if it can be remedied with a higher railing or barrier. But that in no way blames Hamilton. Getting a ball at a ball park has always been one of the most exciting parts of going to a game. Is a foul ball going to come your way? Will a player toss one into your section? It's why kids (and some adults) still bring their gloves out to the ballgame.
But most of all, let's hope this doesn't cause Josh Hamilton to revert back to drugs and alcohol to deal with this tragedy. He's not at fault. This was just bad luck. Fans and teammates should rally around him at this extremely difficult time. Josh had a relapse about a year ago, but he owned up to it and has apparently been clean ever since. He is reportedly "distraught" over this incident (who wouldn't be), and he walked around in circles in disbelief after watching the fan fall 20 feet. Let's hope he can stay that way as he goes through this tragedy.
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