A fan attending the Oakland A's vs. Texas Rangers game in Arlington Texas died Thursday night after falling out of the stands behind the left-field wall.
The man, 39-year-old Brownwood firefighter Lt. Shannon Stone, fell after reaching to get a ball that was tossed into the stands by Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton in the second inning. Stone had been a firefighter for nearly 18 years, according to a report in the Brownwood Bulletin.
"We are deeply saddened to learn that the man who fell has passed away as a result of this tragic accident," Rangers president Nolan Ryan said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
Witness Jamie Houston said Hamilton threw the ball into the stands after a foul ball hit an empty seat and bounced back onto the field.
"The guy went to catch it, and he did catch it," he said. "As he caught it, he leaned over and fell all the way down behind the scoreboard."
The Rangers said Stone fell approximately 20 feet from section 5 in the left-field lower reserved seats at about 7:30 p.m.
The Arlington Fire Department said another fan tried to grab Stone's shirt but was unable to hold on.
Stone's son was with him but did not fall, fire officials said.
"He had a little boy with him," said Jerry Newman, who was sitting near the man. "We took his little boy to the police, and they took him around there to join him."
The area where Stone landed was out of sight from the field. There is a gap of several feet between the 14-foot-high wall and front row of seats, which are only slightly higher than the wall.
There was an audible gasp from the crowd when Stone went over the rail.
"Our little grandson loves baseball. He was just doing what any dad would do – reaching for that ball for his little boy,” said Stone's mother.
Ryan said the Rangers and their staff were very heavy-hearted as they learned about Stone's death.
"We spoke to the ballclub so they understood what happened, and I spoke to Josh," Ryan told reporters after the game. "I think, as any of us would be, Josh is very distraught over this, as the entire team is."
"It's sad; it's very sad," Rangers manager Ron Washington said after the game.
The visitor's bullpen is in left-center field. Athletics reliever Brad Ziegler was in tears after the game when he found out the man 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,"' Ziegler said. "He had his arms swinging. He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was okay. But when you find out he's not, it's just tough."
The Rangers released a statement shortly after 10 p.m. saying Stone had died.
In a statement released a short time later, the Arlington Fire Department said Stone went into full arrest on the way to John Peter Smith Hospital. He was pronounced dead at the hospital at about 8:26 p.m., fire officials said in the statement.
Another Fall at the Ballpark
One year and one day earlier, a fan at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington fell 30 feet from the second deck of seats down the first base side while trying to catch a foul ball.
Tyler Morris, a firefighter, sustained a fractured skull and sprained ankle in the July 6, 2010, fall.
Morris told reporters as he left the hospital last year that he did not blame the Rangers or the ballpark, saying his fall was an accident that "could have happened to anybody."
Ryan said it was too early to talk about the two falls and what evaluations the team might make about railings at the stadium.
"Tonight, we are not prepared to speak about anything further than the accident and the tragedy," Ryan said. "That's where I'm going to leave it."
NBC 5's Frank Heinz and Deborah Ferguson, as well as The Associated Press, contributed to this report.