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Rangers unveil statue of fan who died at game

ARLINGTON, Texas — Nine months after a Texas Rangers fan died after falling over an outfield railing at a game, his 7-year-old son helped unveil a statue Thursday honoring his father and others who love America's pastime.

The life-size bronze statue depicts Shannon Stone and his son, Cooper, wearing baseball caps. They are holding hands and looking at each other as if they're talking. The inscription reads: In memory of Shannon Stone and dedicated to all fans who love the game.

"Today is a celebration of spirit, family and love of the game," Rangers President Nolan Ryan said. "This bronze represents so many things that are good about baseball — competition, happiness, memories — and I think Shannon embodied what we as an organization hope for in our fans."

On July 7, Stone was reaching for a ball tossed to him by Josh Hamilton, Cooper's favorite player, when he fell headfirst about 20 feet and landed on concrete behind the outfield wall. Before the game, Stone had stopped to buy his then-6-year-old son a new glove in the hope of catching a ball.

Witnesses said Stone, a Brownwood Fire Department firefighter, was conscious after falling and sounded worried about Cooper being left alone. Stone, 39, was pronounced dead within an hour.

In September, Cooper and his mother returned to the Rangers Ballpark at Arlington for the first time since Stone's death. Cooper stood on the pitcher's mound and tossed the ceremonial first pitch of the playoffs to Hamilton. Some 50,000 fans were on their feet, many with tears in their eyes.

In creating the statue to honor Stone, sculptor Bruce Greene said it was important for him to depict the moment where fathers and sons are discussing the play-by-play after the game. He also said it was a priority to finish the statue before the start of the season. The Rangers' season opener is scheduled for Friday against the Chicago White Sox.

Ryan said that when Shannon Stone was a boy, he caught a foul ball hit by one of his favorite players, Buddy Bell, who played for the Texas Rangers from 1979-85 and again in 1989. Before the statue was unveiled Thursday, Bell gave Cooper a baseball jersey, bat and ball — after high-fiving the boy.

Stone's widow, Jenny, attended the unveiling with her son but did not speak to the crowd, which included the team, Brownwood firefighters and Arlington emergency personnel. In a statement read at the ceremony, Stone's family said the statue represents what he believed in — his son, family, friends and having fun.

"Shannon lived life to the fullest, doing the things that brought him and others joy. We hope this statue reminds people of doing just that," the family said in the statement.