There is little that hurts the heart more than the thought of a son growing up without a father.
One of the few things that does is the fact that Shannon Stone's son was robbed of his father because his dad was trying to do the most natural thing in the world that a father could do. He was trying to put a smile on his kid's face by getting him a ball at a baseball game.
Anyone who has ever been to a game has done the same thing. The ball's coming your way, you reach out and feel pretty sure that the worst thing that could happen is that someone else gets a souvenir. After what happened on Thursday night, that might not ever be the case again.
There will be action taken at ballparks around the country in light of Stone's death, just as NHL arenas changed standard operating procedure when a little girl died after getting hit in the head by a puck. Players probably won't toss balls into the upper decks anymore, railings will be checked and/or raised and netting will be installed anywhere there's a significant drop from the stands.
Those changes might seem severe at first, but they'll soon become as normal as anything else at the ballpark. Let's hope that Josh Hamilton will be able to make just as smooth a transition.
Hamilton deserves absolutely no blame for throwing the ball that led to Stone's fall and death. He was doing something that he's done countless other times to cheers and smiles from grateful fans. None of that changes the fact that he must be feeling things you wouldn't wish on anybody right now.
After the game, there were two different interpretations of Hamilton's mood. Nolan Ryan said that he was "distraught," while Ron Washington felt that, outwardly, Hamilton seemed fine. He did say that he would decide Friday if Hamilton would play on Friday night, which indicates that there's more than just outward appearances to weigh in the decision.
As there should be. There's a part of you that feels like getting back to business as usual would be the best way to deal with any lingering feelings about the tragedy. Routines, even mundane ones, can make it easier to move forward.
But what if those mundane routines, like picking up a foul ball that richochets back onto the field, merely serve to rustle up thoughts you don't want to be having? We don't know the answer and can't know the answer yet.
We do know that innocent acts have a different meaning because of what happened on Thursday night, though, and that's going to impact the way we watch baseball for the next little while.