July 8, 2011— -- The Texas Rangers will be flying flags at half staff at tonight's game and have begun a memorial fund for the family of the fan who fell to his death from the stands while trying to catch a ball for his young son, team president Nolan Ryan said today.
A somber Ryan said at a press conference that the tragedy "was one of the saddest things I've ever seen in a ballpark. It goes down to the basic roots of who we are and what we stand for."
Shannon Stone, 39, a firefighter in Brownwood, Texas, fell 20 feet head first over a short railing at Arlington Stadium Thursday night after star outfielder Josh Hamilton tossed him the ball. Stone's young son Cooper was with him and witnessed the incident.
Former President George W. Bush was at the game when the incident occurred.
Athletics relief pitcher Brad Ziegler told ESPN that Stone was still conscious and able to talk as he was taken from the stadium.
"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,'" Ziegler told ESPN.
Ryan said he had spoken to Stone's widow, Jenny. "As a father and a grandfather my heart goes out to...Jenny Stone and her son Cooper," he said.
Through Ryan, the widow asked news organizations to pull the video of her husband falling to his death. Jenny Stone told him that "she's very concerned about her son and the impact that this is having on him," Ryan said, adding that the team would make a "substantial donation" to a memorial account for the family .
Ryan said the team had created a Texas Rangers Foundation memorial account for Stone, and fans would be able to contribute at the stadium's kiosks. In addition, flags would be lowered to half staff at the stadium through the weekend. In addition, the players will be wearing black ribbons on their uniforms.
Texas Rangers President Nolan Ryan Calls Fans Death "One of the Saddest Things"
He said on Thursday night that Hamilton is "very distraught over this, as the entire team is," and today Ryan said that the players would be offered counseling, and if any player "felt they needed some time away, we would certainly be open to that."
He said a study had been done last year of the ballpark's railings after a fan suffered serious injuries in a fall a year ago. "They exceeded code. Because of that...we felt what we had was adequate."
"We're going to look into anything we can do to make our stands safe for our fans," he said.
Ryan, who was an All-Star pitcher, said he would not stop players from tossing balls to fans. "As a former player, when you're on the field and you have a child asking for a baseball, you'd like to accommodate him. This just happened to be a situation that turned into a great tragedy," he said.
Arlington Fire Department officials said Stone "went into full arrest" while being transported by ambulance. He was pronounced dead at a Fort Worth hospital less than an hour after he fell.
A family friend, Melanie Larose, said Stone had been a firefighter for 18 years. She issued a brief statement on behalf of the family, saying, "The Stone family is devastated by this tragedy."
Ronnie Hargis, a fellow fan seated in the front row Thursday night, had spoken to Stone during the game and tried to grab him as he fell, according to the Associated Press.
"He went straight down. I tried to grab him, but I couldn't," Hargis said. "I tried to slow him down a little bit."
Thursday's tragedy marks the second deadly fall at a Major League baseball game this season. A 27-year-old man died in May when he fell 20 feet at a Colorado Rockies game and struck his head on concrete.