A man trying to catch a baseball during a Texas Rangers game on Thursday died after falling head-first about 20 feet to the ground.
The victim—who attended the home game with his young son—fell over a rail while attempting to catch the ball. His son was not involved in the fall and was not injured. The accident occurred during the second inning of the Rangers v. Oakland A’s game, after Conor Jackson of the A’s hit a foul ball near left field. Star outfielder Josh Hamilton retrieved the ball and threw it into the stands.
“Josh is very distraught over this,” said team president and ex-pitcher Nolan Ryan, who was sitting in the front row next to President George W. Bush when the accident happened.
“We’re very heavy-hearted about this,” Ryan added, “and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”
The man—who has not been identified by name—was still conscious after his fall, but bleeding from a head wound. While on a stretcher, he was talking and moving his arms, telling the paramedics, “Please check on my son. My son was up there by himself.” The father, who later died in the hospital, was reassured that his son would be tended to.
Ronnie Hargis, who was sitting next to the victim before the fall, told the Associated Press, “He went straight down. I tried to grab him but I couldn’t.”
Catching a baseball, whether it’s a fair or foul, is a rich tradition for spectators of the sport. Some balls, such as the one Barry Bonds hit for his record-breaking 756th home run are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, but most are simply cherished souvenirs. Yet this incident may force the Rangers franchise, who won the American League Championship Series last year, to shift its focus to making this particular pastime safer at the Arlington home base—and not only because it was fatal. Last July, another fan fell 30 feet from the second deck of Rangers Ballpark while trying to catch a foul ball. He survived, but suffered a fractured skull.
The Thursday accident marks the second fatal fall at a Major League Baseball park this season. In May, a 27-year-old man died after falling 20 feet during a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field in Denver. He struck his head on concrete after trying to slide down a staircase railing.