ARLINGTON, Texas - Josh Hamilton could hear 6-year-old Cooper Stone screaming for his dad, who had tumbled over an outfield railing and fallen 20 feet onto the concrete.
"In my mind, it happened in slow motion," Hamilton said Friday, a day after the accident. "I threw the ball and saw him go for it and saw him just tip right over the edge there. When it happened, it was just disbelief."
Firefighter Shannon Stone, who only minutes earlier had called out to Hamilton for a foul ball, fell headfirst after reaching out to catch one tossed his way by the Texas Rangers outfielder in the second inning. Stone died about an hour later.
"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, who went 1-for-5 in the Rangers' 8-5 win over the A's Friday night, hit a foul ball in the sixth that struck a teenage male fan sitting about five rows behind the third-base dugout. The fan, who had blood on his face and needed stitches, smiled as he held a compress against his forehead.
After Hamilton picked up an earlier foul ball in the second inning Thursday and tossed it to a ball girl, he heard someone in the stands call out, "Hey, Hamilton, how about the next one?" When the leftfielder turned around, he saw Stone and the boy, whose favorite player is Hamilton.
"I just gave him a nod, and I got the next one and threw it in that direction," Hamilton said. "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."
Stone tumbled over a railing, landing in an area out of sight from the field behind the 14-foot-high outfield wall. When Hamilton returned to the field after the Rangers batted in the second, he asked how the man was. Hamilton was told that Stone had hurt his arms and his head but was talking and asking about his son. He later learned Stone had died.
Although Hamilton still expects to toss balls to fans in the stands, the incident will make him think every time he tosses that ball now. "You do it so many times, you just don't think about it," he said. "That's what the game's all about. Fans come, they pay to see you play, they want to have a good experience at the ballpark, and with player interaction, that's part of the good experience . . . You'll look carefully at where the fans are, how high they are up, what's the railing like. All these things will come into play now."
Hamilton said he planned to reach out to the Stone family and that he is relying on his Christian faith, just as he has during an inspiring comeback from cocaine and alcohol addictions.
Manager Ron Washington offered him the night off Friday, but Hamilton wanted to play. "You pray, and you just understand that there's nothing that you can do to change it now," Hamilton said. "We live in a fallen world and things you try to do good, try to make people happy or put a little joy in their day, something can go wrong. You just trust God.""Nobody's at fault at all. Nobody should feel responsibility. Not anybody," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said.
"Hopefully, Hamilton is fine . . . hopefully his teammates and family and everybody help him," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It's not his fault. Hopefully we try to forget this day, but it's going to be very tough to forget."