July 8, 2011

Brownwood dad, son shared a passion for baseball

In the time-honored way, baseball linked Brownwood firefighter Shannon Stone and 6-year-old Cooper in "a father-son thing." Shannon Cooper died Thursday after falling 20 feet at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington from the stands onto concrete.

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In the time-honored way, baseball was a shared passion for Brownwood firefighter Shannon Stone and his 6-year-old son, Cooper.

Dad was a fixture at Cooper's Little League games. The two watched countless games together on television. And, several times a summer, father and son made the three-hour drive to Arlington to take in a Texas Rangers game in person.

"It was just a father-son thing, rooting for the home team," family friend Greg Nesom said Friday. "Our families were getting ready to leave for a vacation together, so last night they were just trying to squeeze in one more game before that, I imagine."

It was the second inning when a foul ball ended up with Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, who tossed it lazily toward the left-field seats, where Cooper and his dad were in the front row. Cooper, in his red Rangers cap and T-shirt, had his glove ready. His father was next to him in a blue cap.

Shannon Stone reached out and leaned for the ball, lost his balance and toppled over the railing. He died a short time later at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth from injuries suffered in the 20-foot fall.

"He was an outstanding dad," said Brownwood City Manager Bobby Rountree, who knew Stone well. "He brought Cooper into my office, and it was clear they idolized each other. That's why this is so tragic. That young boy was there for a night of fun, a night of baseball."

Stone's mother, Suzann Stone, told The Associated Press that her son and grandson had stopped on their way to Arlington to buy Cooper a baseball glove.

"That's what they were there for, was to catch a ball," the 63-year-old mother said Friday, choking back sobs. "Cooper loves baseball and he's a big Josh Hamilton fan. Had his jersey."

At the Brownwood Fire Department, stunned colleagues remembered Stone's bravery, devotion to service, and his deep love for his son.

"They did everything together. When he was off duty, he had that boy with him," said Capt. Robert Myers. "If there was an officers' meeting, that boy came with him. Of all the things he's done in his career and the things we've been through, for this to happen, it's just completely unexpected."

Stone, 39, is also survived by his wife, Jenny. After the accident, Cooper was escorted by stadium personnel to the ambulance and rode in the front seat as his father was transported, Rangers president Nolan Ryan said Friday. At John Peter Smith Hospital, Cooper was cared for by police officers and child welfare officials until family members could arrive, Myers said.

"He stayed with Jenny's parents last night in Stephenville," Nesom said. "He was tired and exhausted. Jenny spoke with him and he was sad."

Stone, a graduate of Cleburne High School, was described by friends as an "old-fashioned country boy" who threw hay bales as a boy. His father was a Cleburne police officer and Shannon Stone was a frequent visitor to local firehouses when he was a boy. The home of his parents just outside of Cleburne was destroyed in a fire a year ago, and has since been rebuilt, Cleburne Fire Chief Clint Ishmael said Friday.

Shannon Stone joined the Brownwood Fire Department 18 years ago, shortly after reaching the minimum age of 20.

"He was just a caring person that wanted to help people, and he felt the fire service was the best way he could do that," said James Cook, Brownwood's former director of human resources, who hired Stone. "He was a quiet type person who stayed in the background. He didn't want any accolades. He just wanted to do his thing, take care of his family and become a successful person, which I know he did."

Stone was decorated several times by the Fire Department for bravery, but was also known for his service off-duty. On a night five years ago, on the way home from a Rangers game, Stone and another firefighter stopped to assist at a wreck near Granbury.

"A young girl had been in an accident, and she ended up not making it," Myers said. "But every year that family sends a note of thanks and puts an ad in the paper thanking them for what they did. He's just a special guy."

Friends said Stone was also a NASCAR fan, and volunteered to work on the fire crew in the pits at Texas Motor Speedway.

But the car races couldn't compete with baseball, and a shared love that on Thursday turned into tragedy. Oakland Athletics reliever Brad Ziegler was there when Stone was taken away on a stretcher.

"He was saying stuff like, 'Please check on my son,'" Ziegler said.

Tim Madigan, 817-390-7544

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