ARLINGTON — Twelve days after a North Texas firefighter fell to his death at Rangers Ballpark, the team has announced big safety changes.
The catalyst was the fatal fall of 39-year-old Shannon Stone, who flipped over an outfield railing earlier this month while trying to catch a ball.
That happened almost exactly one year after another incident involving Tyler Morris, another firefighter who toppled over a ballpark railing... but survived.
Under the standard released by the Rangers on Tuesday, every railing in the park will be raised from 34 inches to 42 inches — three-and-a-half feet.
Morris welcomed the news that railings at the ballpark will be made higher. "Accidents do happen... I can say that from experience," he said. "Better late than never. I'm glad they looked into it and decided to raise the railing."
Rangers executive vice president Rob Matwick said the move was based both on Stone's fatal accident Morris' close call.
"We did review all the rail heights last year," Matwick said. "We do exceed the code in rail heights, but two events in the course of a year we felt like we had to take a different step at this time."
The Rangers hope to have design work completed within weeks, but the team is not certain that construction will begin before the end of the regular season in September.
"If we're just retrofitting the rails, that would probably be a simpler process," Matwick said. "If we have to remove rails and re-core and re-anchor the rails into the seats, that could take a little longer."
In the meantime, yellow signs are appearing on railings all over the ballpark: DO NOT LEAN, SIT ON, OR STAND AGAINST RAIL.
The same message will also be flashed on the scoreboard, and will be read aloud before the start of each game.
The new, taller railings may affect the view for fans, but Matwick is making no apologies. "There are sometimes challenges with sight lines, but that will just have to be part of the experience," he said.
Matwick said he knows of no other ballpark in the country that has adopted the 42-inch railing height standard.
The temporary initiatives will be in place when the Rangers open a seven-game homestand against Toronto this Friday.