Firefighter Recovering After Ballpark Fall - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Firefighter Recovering After Ballpark Fall

Nolan Ryan brings fan the foul ball he was trying to catch



    Firefighter Recovering After Ballpark Fall
    Sheldon Sloane
    The man fell from the club level (middle section of the upper levels) and struck the second level (where the illuminated display boards are) before landing in the lower bowl.

    A firefighter is still hospitalized but in good spirits after taking a 30-foot plunge while leaning to catch a foul ball at a Texas Rangers game.

    Tyler Morris, who works at the Lake Cities Fire Department, was attending Tuesday night's game with friends.

    Fellow firefighter Kevin Conner said Morris suffered a head injury and sprained ankle but no internal injuries and was joking with friends and family Wednesday.

    "In the back of your mind, you're thinking the worst," Conner said.

    Conner said his 25-year-old friend, who grabbed the railing briefly as he tumbled from the second deck, didn't fall on his head.

    Rangers president and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan visited Morris in the hospital Wednesday, foul ball in hand. Ryan said Morris welcomed his visit and was "thrilled" to receive the foul ball he tried to catch. Ryan said the incident "hasn't lessened his enthusiasm for the Rangers."

    Morris' friends are already teasing him about the fall -- and about how to prevent another one.

    "He has to wear a helmet, and we're going to put a bungee cord on him so we can hold onto him," said Ben Westcott, his best friend since childhood. "He's beyond lucky. There's no way of describing it. It really and truly is a miracle."

    Morris is expected to be released soon from John Peter Smith Hospital, Conner said.

    The Foul Ball and the Fall

    Nelson Cruz sliced a pitch back over the first base side in the fifth inning of Tuesday's game against the Cleveland Indians. The ball carried upward before caroming out back toward the field. Morris, trying to snag the prize, went over the edge of the club level and into the bowl below.

    Rangers spokesman John Blake said Morris was "able to move all his extremities and was responsive to paramedics."

    The fall itself was not shown during the television broadcast of the game. But players, umpires and fans were visibly shaken.

    "He tumbles and tries to catch it, and it bounces off," Rangers fan Yvonne Soto said. "He tumbles and falls off, grabs the rail, and then slips and then he lands."

    Bryan Carota, another Rangers fan, said there was "complete silence" in the ballpark when Morris fell.

    "At first, awe and then just silence -- everybody was really concerned about him," he said.

    Paramedics were on the scene quickly to attend to Morris, who was strapped to a stretcher and taken by ambulance to John Peter Smith Hospital.

    The game was stopped for 16 minutes.

    Ryan said he saw Morris fall out of the corner of his eye.

    "My thoughts were that we had some serious problems on our hands with injuries," he said.

    Four people in the lower deck were struck when Morris fell and were treated at the ballpark for minor injuries.

    Ryan said the railing meets code, so the team does not plan to make any changes to it. The railings are 30.25 inches taller, higher than the required 26 inches.

    "So we feel it was strictly an accident, an unfortunate thing that happened," Ryan said at a Wednesday news conference. "It's pretty hard to guard against something of that nature."

    Some railings were raised to 46 inches following a 1994 incident after the Rangers' first game at the ballpark. A woman posing for a picture suffered multiple injuries after falling 35 feet from the third level, but Ryan said Wednesday that the 1994 incident was not related to the railings.

    But personal injury attorneys say it could be an issue if a lawsuit is filed.

    "The question is going to be, if they felt 46 inches was safe at the third level, why wouldn't they have changed the second level from 32 to 46 also, whether it be for cost or otherwise?" attorney Clint David said.

    In the last 10 years, three people have died after they fell from the upper decks of stadiums across the United States.

    NBC DFW's Omar Villafranca and Julie Tam and the AP's Angela K. Brown contributed to this report.