Ranger outfielder Hamilton recalls moment fan fell

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by GEORGE RIBA

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WFAA

Posted on July 8, 2011 at 8:35 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 8 at 9:08 PM

ARLINGTON, TX - Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton played Friday night despite being the closest player to the outfield wall where firefighter Shannon Stone fell Thursday night, suffering fatal injuries.

Friday, Hamilton relived the moments that led up to him throwing a baseball to Stone up into the stands.

"In my mind, it happened in slow motion," he said before Friday night's game. "I'll give you the story. The first foul ball came down and I grabbed it and gave it to the ball girl, and then behind me I heard someone say, 'Hey Hamilton, how about the next one,' and I turned around and Mr. Stone was the first guy I saw standing there with his son, and so I just gave him a nod."

When Hamilton got another foul ball, he decided to toss it up to Stone.

"I got the next one and threw it in that direction," he said. "It's like it happened in slow motion."

Hamilton said he could hear 6-year-old Cooper Stone, Shannon's son, screaming for his dad, who tumbled over the outfield railing and fell 20 feet onto the concrete.

"It's just hard for me, hearing that little boy screaming for his daddy. ... That's one of the main things I remember," Hamilton said. "It's definitely on my mind and in my heart. I can't stop from praying enough for them."
 
Hamilton said the medical staff sits right there at the corner of the outfield fence so they were there immediately.

"As soon as it happened, I couldn't help but think about what was going on behind that fence," he said.
 
"It's just a freak accident," he added. "It's pretty surreal and brings things into perspective and how quickly lives can change in the blink of an eye and very unexpectedly."

Hamilton and his teammates played the rest of the game. He said he didn't find out that the firefighter had died until after the game was over.

"When it initially happened, we went in to hit, came back out and they had already taken him out," he recalled. "I went over to the fence and asked how he was and they said he had a couple of hurt arms and head but he was talking and asking about his son. So, I immediately thought he was going to be okay, but then found out after the game he had passed on. It's just a shock. You hear someone that's doing good and then get a bomb dropped on you. I can't image how his family is feeling. My heart, my sympathy and my prayers go out to them."

Hamilton was in the starting lineup for the second game of Texas' game against Oakland on Friday night. Washington offered the slugger the day off, but Hamilton wanted to play.

"No, because of the obligation that I have to this organization and this team," he said. "There is nothing that would benefit me from not being out there playing and trying to help these guys. I'm going to play. I talked with Wash (Ron Washington) and I talked with Gary Pettis. If I feel I need some time, then I'll take the time, but there is nothing that I could do by not playing."

Hamilton said he anticipates reaching out to the Stone family, but said right now is not the time.

"You want to give this situation time, too," he said. "I can't imagine what they're going through right now. I can't imagine it. All I can think about is praying for them and knowing that God has a plan. You don't always understand what that plan is when things happen, but He will."

Hamilton said he is relying on his Christian faith, just as he has during an inspiring comeback from cocaine and alcohol addictions that almost kept him from ever playing in the major leagues.

The reigning AL MVP, whose major league debut in 2007 came almost eight years after he was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick, was selected by fans to start his fourth consecutive All-Star game next week.

As to any future requests from fans wanting a ball thrown their way, Hamilton said it's not something he does all the time anyway.

"I rarely do it just because sometimes they drop them and it slows the game down," he said. That's why I said the first ball, I threw it to the ball girl. And then I got that request from somebody behind me, I don't know if it was Mr. Stone or who. I'll definitely take more precaution. When I glanced up there, the first person I saw was the dad and the boy and it looked like somebody who would love to have a baseball."

Hamilton said his family stayed up with him Thursday night offering him encouragement and support.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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