Texas Rangers star outfielder Josh Hamilton played his part in a custom almost as old as the game itself Thursday night in Arlington, Texas. He tossed a souvenir ball into the stands after a batter hit a foul ball.
Shannon Stone, 39, who came to Rangers Ballpark with his 6-year-old son, stuck out his glove and reached for the ball, only to fall about 20 feet and suffer fatal injuries.
The second-inning incident left the Rangers shaken.
Friday, Rangers president Nolan Ryan, a Hall of Fame pitcher, said he saw no reason to discontinue the tradition of tossing a ball into the stands.
"I know as a former player, that when you're on the field and you have an opportunity and you have a child asking for a baseball, you like to accommodate them," Ryan told reporters. "This just happens to be a situation that turned into a great tragedy. And what you'd like to do is hope that we don't have that situation come up again. But I also would not suggest that we don't give baseballs away."
Ryan, on behalf of Stone's widow, asked the media to refrain from using the footage of Stone's fall, saying it was the "decent thing to do."
"This is a tragedy for the Stone family, his firefighter brothers and the city of Brownwood," said City Manager Bobby Rountree in a news release. "Please keep the Stone family and his fellow firefighters in your prayers."
Ryan commended the emergency response after the incident and said the top concern was fan safety.
The height of the railings has never been increased because the club was told they exceeded the city's code limits, said Ryan. Still, he said, the fact that an incident like this has happened in the past two years is "disturbing."
No modifications were made Friday, but Ryan said the club will review the rail height.
One fan who saw the fall described the incident to CNN affiliate WFAA.
"Just as the ball hit his hands, it kind of threw him off balance and he went head-first," he said. "It looked awful because you knew there was no way he was going to land on his feet."
"We're very heavy-hearted about this," said Ryan. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family."
Major League Baseball issued a statement saying officials were "shocked and saddened" over Stone's death and are reviewing the incident.
On July 9, 2010, a fan fell from the second deck of the ballpark while trying to catch a foul ball. The man, Tyler Morris, survived the 30-foot fall but fractured his skull and injured his foot and ankle.
"Somebody had to have been watching over me from above," Morris later told reporters.
Stone was a 17-year veteran of the Brownwood Fire Department. The city plans to fly flags at half-staff the day of his funeral, which is still being planned.