As the Rangers prepare the Opening Day, the organization unveiled a statue honoring fallen Brownwood, TX firefighter and life-long Ranger fan, Shannon Stone on Thursday.
Last season, on July 7, Stone took his young son Cooper to watch their beloved Rangers play the game they both loved so much, but late in the game tragedy struck. Trying to catch a souvenir foul ball from Rangers’ outfielder, Josh Hamilton, Stone lost his balance, falling 20 feet below. Though he was taken off the field on a stretcher, he died later of complications from the fall.
One of the most heartbreaking memories of that day is from the players recalling Stone’s son, Cooper, watching the events unfold, and hearing Stone cry out for someone to take care of his son.
Both Cooper and his mother were in attendance at the memorial unveiling, as well as Cooper’s grandparents, fellow Brownwood firefighters, members of the Rangers organization, and the players themselves. Former Ranger, Buddy Bell, was in attendance as well after hearing the story that one of Stone’s greatest childhood memories was catching foul ball off Bell’s bat at the old Arlington Stadium. Bell presented Cooper with an autographed bat, jersey and baseball.
“Today is a celebration of spirit, family and a love of the game,” Rangers’ president Nolan Ryan told the crowd of several hundred people. ”This represents so many things that are good about baseball-competitiveness, happiness and memories, and I think Shannon embraced what we love about our fans, sharing his passion for the game to Cooper.”
Bruce Greene, renowned sculptor and creator of the statue, explained the purpose of the memorial. “Beyond capturing the portrait and relationship of Shannon and Cooper — that was the priority — secondary was capturing the relationship of a father and son going to a baseball game and the bonding they had while having a great time,” Greene stated.
Ryan added, “We wanted it to represent what goes on in a stadium among families,” Ryan said. “He captured that moment.”
The Stone family issued a statement of their own, thanking the Rangers and Greene for their kindness in such a trying time.
“Our deepest thanks to Mr. Greene for understanding our family and capturing the spirit of Cooper and Shannon and baseball fans everywhere.
“We have gained many blessings from our loss. Our lives have been filled with the love and support of strangers across the world, of firefighters, of communities, of organizations like the Rangers and little league baseball teams, of individuals like Nolan Ryan, and, of course, our wonderful family and friends.
“Shannon lived life to its fullest, doing the things that brought him and others joy, and being with the people he loved. We hope this statue reminds people to do just that. Now, as Shannon liked to say, ‘Let’s play ball, y’all!’”
It’s a heartbreaking story–but one that reminds us how the love of baseball can create a special bond between a father and a son. Now, as the Rangers prepare to begin their 2012 season, that bond, specifically the bond between Shannon and Cooper Stone, will be forever on display.