I was at the Ballpark in Arlington on July 7, as a foul ball was ripped down the left field line. It careemed off the wall, and straight toward Josh Hamilton.
He tosses the ball to a fan in the left field bleachers. The fan caught it, but tumbled over the railing and fell nearly 20 feet. I can still see him falling in my mind. It sickens my stomach.
I couldn't enjoy the rest of that game, what turned out to be a pretty entertaining 6-0 over the Athletics. It was one year ago to the day where another fan fell 30 feet from the upper deck while trying to catch a foul ball.
I was hopeful the man, who was with his son, would be alright. Sadly, once the game ended, the news broke that Shannon Stone, the man who went after the ball, had died.
My heart sank, and I began to cry. I remembered the days with my father in the backyard of my house as he would play catch with me, took me to baseball practice and cheered me on when I played all the way through middle school.
What I remembered most was when my dad took me to Rangers games. We didn't have a whole lot of money, so it was always a big deal when we made the trek to the ballpark. I got to see my favorite players like Pudge Rodriguez, Rusty Greer and Juan Gonzalez IN PERSON. The six-year-old me was nothing short of esctatic.
And knowing that Shannon Stone would never get to have those experiences with his child just gutted me to my core. Without my dad, I probably never become interested in baseball, let alone become a die-hard Rangers fan. Baseball is such an incredible sport to experience and play. There's something inherent in its nature that brings people together and gives us reason to celebrate.
These past two seasons as a Ranger fan have been full of incredible moments for me. It was always depressing knowing your season was over in June. The 2000s were a decade mostly of a team with no clear direction. Last place finishes were commonplace. But they were MY crappy team. Once they hired Jon Daniels at GM, and truly began to rebuild for the future, I knew this team had the potential to do big things.
I'm writing this post in a state of depression. My team had an entire city ready to erupt. It's a minor miracle when the Rangers are the top story. You maybe heard one segment this week on the Cowboys in this city.
One strike away. Twice. When Hamilton hit that home run in the 10th, it seemed so perfect, so fitting. The man playing on one leg, who had fought the demons of drug addiction, who had been indirectly involved in Stone's death, had just put his team ahead after a gut-wrenching 9th inning.
I don't want to recap the whole thing. It makes me want to cry. The beauty of the game is that it can be so cruel. I can look back at the good moments of this season. Things like Mike Napoli going to Anaheim and blasting a home run to center field as Adrian Beltre yells "OH SHIT." Seriously, it's awesome. Watching Derek Holland, perhaps the most frustrating pitcher in Rangers history, pitch one of the greatest games in World Series history in person. Hell, making it to the World Series two straight years after never winning a playoff series. It hurts, but those memories don't become irrelevant just because we didn't win. I hate this notion that my team is full of chokers. It discounts the incredible performance from the Cards, in my opinion.
I'm saddened, but hopeful we have the talent to make it back, and eventually win a World Series. Once we do, it'll be that much sweeter. Congrats to you guys. I lurked at this place during the WS, and you all seem like a pretty awesome community. One strike, man.