- Associated Press - Friday, September 30, 2011

ARLINGTON, TEXAS (AP) - The 6-year-old boy who saw his firefighter father fall to his death while trying to catch a ball for him during a Rangers game this summer was back at the stadium Friday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the playoffs.

Cooper Stone’s toss was to be caught by his favorite player, Josh Hamilton. It was Hamilton who threw the ball Shannon Stone was reaching for when he fell headfirst about 20 feet, landing on concrete behind the outfield wall.

This game, the opener of an AL division series between the Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays, was the first trip back to Rangers Ballpark for Cooper since the July 7 tragedy. The family lives in Brownwood, about a two-hour drive away.

Team president Nolan Ryan said he’s stayed in contact with widow Jenny Stone in hopes that Cooper would return to the stadium “at the appropriate time.” This, they decided, “was very appropriate,” Ryan said.

“He represents what we believe we’re about and he is a very dyed-in-the-wool Ranger fan,” Ryan said. “We’re just honored that they were willing to come out and do that and share the day with us.”

The Rangers recently announced plans to build a statue of Shannon and Cooper Stone outside the home-plate entrance as a tribute to them, and to all fans. The team hopes to unveil it by opening day next season. The club also is planning to raise the railing throughout the stadium.

A memorial fund started by the team on the family’s behalf recently received more than $150,000 from an auction sponsored by Fox Sports Southwest, the team’s main broadcaster.

The family has shunned media attention, and the team has supported its wishes.



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