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JENKINS: An open letter to the family of Shannon Stone

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

First, let me express my sincere condolences for the loss of your husband, son, and father, who died tragically when he fell from the bleachers while trying to catch a baseball during a Texas Rangers' game on July 7.

The fact that Shannon's 6-year-old son, Cooper, was present at the game and witnessed the event makes it even more heartbreaking. Having lost my mother to a car accident in which I was also a passenger, I understand something of what that little boy must be going through. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with him and with your entire family.

I'm actually writing, though, to offer the following heart-felt plea: Please, please, please do not file a lawsuit against the Rangers, the Ballpark in Arlington, Major League Baseball or Rangers' outfielder Josh Hamilton, who tossed Shannon that fateful ball.

I know it must be tempting. You may well feel inclined to blame park construction or the Rangers organization or Hamilton for the accident. But let's be honest: if we must assign blame, what happened to Shannon was really no one's fault but his. We've all seen the footage. Attempting to snag the ball, he leaned out too far.

His decision. His miscalculation. His mistake.

We've all done things like that -- stupid things, we'd usually be the first to admit. Most of the time, people survive such episodes. Sometimes they don't.

I also understand that, potentially, there's a lot of money to be made from a lawsuit, perhaps in the form of a large settlement. No doubt that would go a long way toward compensating you for the loss of your loved one, not to mention the family breadwinner.

All of us can sympathize. But I ask you, on behalf of Americans everywhere, not to do it. You might get some short-term satisfaction out of a lawsuit, perhaps even long-term financial security, but what would the rest of us get? A nation altered forever, where a dad can no longer take his son to the ballpark, mitts firmly in place, and dream of returning home with a ball hit off the bat of one of the boy's heroes.

Instead, from now on, fans would languish behind high, thick netting, no longer just protecting those immediately behind home plate but extending all the way around the bleachers.

Because that's how our litigation-sick society usually works. Some ordinary, fun activity goes horribly yet aberrantly wrong, somebody sues, and suddenly we can no longer explore beyond the fenced trails at state parks or go cliff jumping at the old rock quarry or feel the wind in our hair while riding bicycles.

So please, as hard as it must be to say goodbye to Shannon, don't force the rest of us to say goodbye to yet another cherished aspect of American childhood. I can't imagine the dad in Shannon would have wanted that.

Rob Jenkins is a local writer and college professor. Email him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.