UPDATED: At 4:58 p.m. with quotes from Josh Hamilton and Ron Washington, and again at 7:02 p.m. to change "black arm bands" to "black ribbons on their uniforms".
ARLINGTON -- Texas Rangers Club President and CEO Nolan Ryan announced today the team will be opening a memorial fund to benefit the family of Shannon Stone, the Brownwood, Texas, firefighter who died at the Rangers game Thursday night.
Ryan made a brief statement asking media not to show footage of Stone's fall from the left field stands during last night's game with the Oakland A's then took questions from the gathered members of the press about the accident.
"It's a very, very sad day for the Texas Rangers organization," Ryan said. "With the tragedy that we had last night, it hits us at our roots of who we are."
Ryan said he spoke with Jenny Stone, the widow of Mr. Stone, over the phone this morning.
"She's very concerned about her son and the impact that this is having on him, rightly so," Ryan said.
Ryan said the Texas Rangers Foundation is starting a memorial account today and the club will be making a "substantial" donation to that account. Additionally, the president said the team will encourage anyone who would like to give to that account to do so. There will be an announcement regarding the account before tonight's game and kiosks around the stadium will be able to take donations, and it will also be possible to donate through the team's website.
The Rangers did not have memorial or funeral services information as of Friday afternoon.
"As a father and a grandfather, my heart goes out to that family and for Jenny Stone and for her son, Cooper," Ryan said.
Just over a year ago the Rangers had a fan drop from the upper deck of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington while trying to catch a foul ball. Ryan said after the incident last year, there was a study of the railings in the ballpark that found all railings met or exceeded the dimensions called for in the building code.
Ryan said a City of Arlington building inspector had already checked the stadium again Friday morning and found it met code.
Stone fell when outfielder Josh Hamilton threw a ball into the stands for the man and his son. The Rangers All-Star said the entire scene played out in slow motion in front of him. He had thrown an earlier foul ball to the ball girl, then a man behind him asked if he could throw them the next one. Hamilton turned around and saw Stone and his son.
He nodded and threw the next foul ball in the direction of the fans, only to see Stone fall behind the out-of-town scoreboard. It is a drop of about 20 feet onto a concrete walkway.
Hamilton said he stayed up with his wife, Katie, and their children to talk about the accident last night.
"It's just hard for me, y'know, hearing a little boy screaming for his daddy after he had fallen, then being home with my kids," Hamilton said. "It really hit home last night."
The 2011 All-Star said the accident showed how fragile life can be. He said he intends to reach out to family, though he hadn't done so yet. He wanted to give them space after such a tragedy.
"It's pretty surreal," Hamilton said. "It brings things into perspective; how quickly lives can change in the blink of an eye and very unexpectedly."
However Hamilton will be starting in left field tonight for the Rangers as they face the A's. He said he felt an obligation to the organization and the team to be on the field trying to help his teammates.
"I talked to Wash, I talked with [first base coach] Gary Pettis about if I feel like I need some time, then I'll take the time," Hamilton said. "There's nothing that I could do by not playing that I couldn't do by playing."
Both teams will be wearing black ribbons on their uniforms, there will be a moment of silence for Stone before the game and the flags at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington will remain at half-staff the rest of the weekend.
Ryan and Texas manager Ron Washington encouraged any players who didn't feel ready to play tonight to let them know. Washington said none of the Rangers took them up on the offer.
"I expect us to continue to play baseball the way we've been playing," Washington said. "We all feel bad about what happened, but no one cancelled this game today. So it's got to be played and we're not going to use what happened yesterday as an excuse for not going out there and playing baseball."
The team will have support staff in place for any players or medical staff affected by the accident.
"We have a councilor on staff with our organization and that person is going to be available for our players, and then we also have availability for the [emergency] responders that responded last night," Ryan said.