ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cooper Stone, the 6-year-old son of Shannon Stone, who died following injuries suffered in a fall at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 7, threw a strike to Josh Hamilton for the ceremonial first pitch before Friday's ALDS Game 1.
Cooper, a left-hander, walked to the mound with his mother, Jenny, and Rangers CEO and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Cooper stepped on the rubber and Hamilton came halfway out between home and the mound to catch the ball. He gave Cooper a hug, gave Jenny Stone a hug and talked to her for about 30 seconds or so before hugging her again. The sellout crowd cheered the entire time.
"I asked her if they were believers in Christ," Hamilton said after the Rangers' 9-0 loss. "She said they were. I said, 'Well, we know where your husband is right now and make sure that the little one knows who his daddy was and what he stood for. Make sure he understands that.'"
Back on July 7, Shannon Stone tried to catch a foul ball flipped to him by Hamilton, Cooper's favorite player, but fell over the left-field rail to the ground 20 feet below. This was Cooper's first time back at the ballpark since that day.
Ryan reached out to Jenny Stone to see if they'd like to come to a game.
"She had indicated to me earlier in the summer that Cooper was wanting to come out to a game, but she wasn't ready to deal with it," Ryan said a few hours before the game. "She told me that she felt like before the season was over that she would bring him back because she felt that was in his best interests, because this is what he was wanting to do."
That's how Friday's moment happened. Ryan said the Stones were in attendance with a party of eight, consisting mostly of family members.
Jenny Stone thanked the Rangers for the day in a statement.
"They have turned a difficult return to The Ballpark into an once-in-a-lifetime experience for Cooper," she said. "Nothing could be more exciting for a boy than throwing out the first pitch to his favorite player. We are glad and grateful to be here to see the Rangers start their march to the World Series."
Hamilton appreciated the moment as well.
"It was pretty special and just having him be out there and having mom there, Jenny, was pretty emotional," Hamilton said. "Obviously, she was more emotional than he was. He's just six years old. It was just a good moment. I've wondered how the moment would be when it happened. I expected emotions wrapped up with it and excitement for the little one. But overall, it was a good experience."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.