Rangers Ballpark Tragedy: Thoughts on Family, Sports & Life

Last night I was working on a post about Sheldon Souray and his role this season with the Dallas Stars. I was watching the Texas Rangers game as well, in the background, as the team won a not-so-close game and everyone celebrated a complete victory. The game itself had a very somber, non-celebratory mood to it, however, and having only watched the final few innings I was oblivious to the tragedy that had occurred earlier. Most fans at the game knew someone had fell and like last summer -- just one year and a day ago -- when a fan fell from the upper to lower level, the game itself took a backseat to the realities of life.

The full extent of what happened was not fully known until the game was over, when the team announced that Lt. Shannon Stone of the Brownwood Fire Department had died from his injuries sustained in the fall, when he tumbled over a railing and fell 15 feet after trying to catch a ball thrown into the stands. Lt. Stone was there with his young son, who was attending his first baseball game ever -- complete with Rangers shirt and ballcap and trusty glove.

It's unspeakable to think of the tragedy that has befallen this family. The young son, watching his father fall while trying to catch a ball thrown to him by the AL MVP. I'm sure many have read the reports of what happened after the fall and it's apparent just how much Lt. Stone's son meant to him, as that was his only concern after falling.

For the majority of us, we know that accidents and deaths occur every day and all too often. Families are ripped apart by the most senseless acts or illness everyday; for the most part, we don't come face to face with a tragedy such as this as the deaths that occur around the globe feel so impersonal. An accident like this, however, brings it all right in front of us and forces us to confront the horror and sadness of such an unspeakable occurrence and it makes us remember what is truly important in life.

For nearly everyone here, sports is an ingrained part of our lives. It's what drives us forward, a passion that we obsess over, laugh and cry about and what makes us depressed or happy depending on the outcome of the games. This passion is shared with those around us, whether at games or watching on television with friends, or enjoying the sport you love with your family.

There is a special bond between father and son, especially when it comes to sports. I remember as a kid that I loved nothing more than to go to old Arlington Stadium with my dad and watch the Rangers from the bleachers. Some of my most fondest memories are of sitting next to my father and watching Dallas Cowboys games, whether at home or at family functions. We would attend countless Stars games when they first came to Dallas, my entire family attending and coming to love this great sport I have the honor of writing about now.

I am a sports fan because of my father and there is no doubt in my mind my passion for these games comes from the great memories I have of watching and attending games with him. A few years ago I went to a Rangers game with my dad and my grandfather, all three of us watching a team we love at the ballpark for the first time in my life. It was an incredible experience and one I'll never forget and the picture from that day evokes one of the greatest memories of my life. I'm looking at that framed photo now, proudly displayed above my fireplace.

I watched the Rangers win the AL Championship with my family, sitting next to my father and hugging him at the end of the game. I watched the Stars win the Stanley Cup at home with my father and brother, and thinking of both of those wins immediately makes me think of them. To this day, perhaps my favorite part of Thanksgiving is being able to once again sit and enjoy Cowboys games with my dad, something that doesn't happen enough as an adult. 

For some, sports is just a game. For many of us, it's a way to transcend the everyday crunch and stress of life and come together with tens of thousands of other fans to cheer on a simple sport that brings so much fun to so many. These sports also provide a bridge to help build a lasting and incredible bond between families; mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. My great-grandmother taught me herself how to throw and hit a baseball and everytime I think of swinging that bat in her driveway I start to tear up because it makes me feel so good.

I cannot wait until I have a son one day, when I can put a Rangers hat on his head and put a glove on his hand and then take him to the Ballpark to watch the team we love play ball. I would love nothing more than to be a hero for my son and to catch that baseball, knowing that such a trophy would be proudly displayed in his room for years to come.

That's all Lt. Shannon Stone wanted for his son. Now, his son will not only have none of the memories I cherish to dearly but he no longer has a father, one who loved him and was devoted to him. I want to reach out to this little kid with the big red hat and glove and shield him from sadness that will now be a part of his life forever. 

Tragedies happen every day, every hour, every minute. We're oblivious to the fragility of the life around us and take for granted just how lucky we are to be able to hug our fathers, mothers, wives, girlfriends, husbands and boyfriends. More importantly, we should never pass up a chance to spend just a little more time with our sons and daughters, to give them that one last hug before school or soccer practice. It can all disappear in a matter of moments, one simple misstep leading to such horrific consequences.

Lt. Shannon Stone was a hero, to a community and to a son. My thoughts reach out to his family and to everyone that he loved, family and friends. 

Members of the Lone Star Ball community are discussing what can be done to help out this family. If you'd like to see what you can do, you can join the conversation here.

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