By David M. Bresnahan
Recently Shannon Stone reached for a ball tossed by a player to the fans at a Texas Rangers game and fell to his death, in front of his young son. A few days later Keith Carmickle stood on a table and reached for a home run ball at the All Star Home Run Derby and fell, but was saved by his friends who were alert enough to grab him as he went head first towards the ground 20 feet below.
No baseball is worth risking life and limb. Ask Cooper, the 6-year-old son of Shannon Stone if he would prefer a baseball to having a father and I think I know what the answer would be.
The lady sitting next to him was interviewed by ABC News, and she indicated that God decided to take this man home. That does not sit well with me. God lets us have the freedom, or agency to make our own choices, and lets us suffer the consequences of those choices. God does not compel us to say or do anything.
I have been to many major league baseball games in my life, and have witnessed a vast array of people as they go after a foul ball, home run ball, or even a ball hit during batting practice. I have never seen someone die, but I have seen people risk life and limb, as well as injure others in the pursuit of a round souvenir.
I often ask myself, “What was that guy thinking?”
Such was the case at a game in Yankee Stadium (the original one) a number of years ago. We arrived early, as we always do, to watch batting practice. I had my son Michael with me and wanted him to see what I call the graveyard. This is the area in the outfield where the Yankee greats have a monument, and it reminds me of a graveyard.
We there during batting practice and witnessed several balls come our way. Suddenly there was a ball that landed just past us in the stands. We watched as a fan trampled a number of people, including a little boy no more than 8 years old just to grab a batting practice ball. The boy began to cry, and an adult next to him was bleeding from his forehead. The man ran off with his ball as other fans yelled at him. How sad. Some security guards went after him, but I did not see if he was apprehended.
Was he unique? Not at all. I have seen similar acts of selfishness at many ballparks.
Fortunately I have seen many more acts of kindness. Time and time again I have observed an adult who catches a ball hand it to a youngster, obviously not his own. It happen with my own son, Joseph when he was only about 4. We were at a minor league game and a foul ball came our way. The man who caught it walked over to us and handed the ball to Joseph, and even now, 12 years later, the ball sits on top of his dresser.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Stone lost his life. My heart goes out to his wife and son. I cannot imagine the sorrow they must feel, and how difficult this will be for Cooper as he grows up without his dad, and with those terrible memories. They will be in my prayers. I hope that the national attention that incident has received will cause others to pause and think before they risk their life for a $12 baseball they can buy at the souvenir counter on the way out.
However, only a few days later Keith Carmickle obviously was not influenced by the death of Stone. He stood on a table and nearly lost his life as he lunged for a ball coming at him. What was he thinking? Will other learn from his poor choice?
Well, in an interview after the incident Carmickle gives us a good idea what he was thinking. He said, “We caught three balls and I told the guys I was going for the cycle. Dude, they were really holding on to me.” I guess that says it all.
I love baseball, and every time I go to a game I remember the times I sat in Fenway Park with my grandfather and my father. Wonderful memories. Kids should be able to leave a ballpark with memories of a fun day with their dad, not the memory of seeing their dad plunge to his death.
Life is filled with choices, and consequences. Let’s play it smart. At the very least, we can learn from the mistakes of others so we do not make the same mistake.