One day after a Brownwood man died after falling from the left-field bleachers, Texas Rangers team president Nolan Ryan said it was a "very, very sad day for the Texas Rangers organization."
Thirty-nine-year-old firefighter Lt. Shannon Stone fell after reaching to get a baseball lobbed into the stands by Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton in the second inning.
"With the tragedy that we had last night, it hits us at our roots of who we are," Ryan said during a news conference Friday. "We're about making memories, about family entertainment, and last night we had a father and son at the game and had a very tragic incident, and it just drives it to the core of what we're about and the memory that we try to make in this game for our fans."
Stone, who was a firefighter in Brownwood for nearly 18 years, was attending the game with his young son, Cooper.
The pair had hoped to catch a ball at the game and had even stopped off to buy Cooper a new glove before heading to the ballpark that afternoon.
Ryan said he had spoken with Stone's widow, Jenny.
"That's one of the saddest things I've seen in a ballpark. As a father and a grandfather, my heart goes out for that family, to Jenny Stone and her son, Cooper," said Ryan. "This is really just one of those freak accidents that happens. It's definitely an accident."
Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Monday at the First United Methodist Church in Brownwood.
Ryan Says Ballpark Railings Inspected
The Rangers said they plan a full investigation into the deadly fall.
During Friday's news conference, Ryan said the rails were inspected and determined to exceed international building code after Tyler Morris fell 30 feet into the lower bowl one year ago while trying to snag a foul ball.
Arlington city officials said Friday that the railing is 7 inches higher than required. The city also said the ballpark has passed its quality-of-life inspection every year.
Ryan said a city inspector visited the park Friday morning after Thursday's fall and determined that everything was still up to code in the ballpark.
During Friday night's game, security guards lined the railing in the left-field stands where Stone fell.
A tarp covered space between the outfield wall and the scoreboard to prevent people from taking photographs.
Netting used to be in place in that area before, but Ryan said he thought it was even more dangerous because people used to jump onto it to get baseballs.
Ryan said the team would again evaluate the railing and that the Texas Rangers would do whatever they can to ensure the safety of their fans, but it would be premature at this point to speculate what that may be.
"[Last year], it was the first incident we had had in many, many years. This makes the fourth in the history of the stadium. The fact that there's two in the last year is disturbing," said Ryan.
Rangers Won't Stop Players From Throwing to Fans
Even in light of the incident, he wasn't going to ask players to not throw balls to fans, said Ryan.
"I know as a former player that when you're on the field and you have a child asking for a baseball, you'd like to accommodate them. I know I did that as a player. This just happens to be a situation that turned into a great tragedy," said Ryan. "I'm no different than our fan base. When I was younger and went to the ballpark, my hope was to get a foul ball. You can tell when you see our fans come into the stadium, how many of them are wearing gloves, hoping to get that opportunity. What you'd like to do is hope that we don't have that situation come up again, but I don't suggest we don't give baseballs away. We try to accommodate our fans."
Players from both teams wore black ribbons Friday night, and a moment of silence was observed before the game. Flags will remain at half-staff throughout the weekend.
Counselors are also being made available to players, staff and first responders who may be having difficulty dealing with the tragedy.
Ryan said the Texas Rangers Foundation was setting up a memorial fund. The Rangers would make a substantial but undisclosed donation for the family, he said. Fans who want to contribute to the fund can do so at kiosks at the ballpark or on the Texas Rangers website.
Memorial funds have also been set up through the following organizations:
Brownwood Chamber of Commerce
Find out more about the Shannon Stone Memorial Fund at www.brownwoodchamber.org/stone/
Bank of America
C/O Shannon Stone Memorial Fund
Account number: 488033378318
Brownwood Fire Department
C/O Shannon Stone Memorial Fund
809 Main St.
Brownwood, Texas 76801
NBC DFW's Ellen Goldberg contributed to this report.