Josh Hamilton’s faith after fan’s death

You might remember the man who fell to his death earlier this summer trying to catch a ball at a Texas Rangers game in front of his six-year-old son, Cooper.

Shannon Stone, 39, fell from the stands while trying to catch a ball that Rangers’ Josh Hamilton had thrown to him. Stone pronounced dead at the hospital an hour later. The Texas Rangers invited his son back to throw the first pitch of the playoffs last night.

The other day when I mentioned to the GetReligion group that I was more of a basketball, tennis and football fan than a baseball fan, I received a little name-calling, all in jest. I may not watch the playoffs or care that the Rangers lost 9-0 (sorry, Bobby), but I can appreciate a moving baseball story like this. Did I mention that it’s a tear-jerker? Here’s an interesting religion bit from a brief ESPN report.

Hamilton came out halfway between the mound and home plate to catch Cooper’s pitch and talked briefly with Jenny afterward.

“I asked her if they were believers in Christ,” Hamilton said. “She said they were. I said, ‘Well, we know where your husband is right now and make sure that the little one knows who is daddy was and what he stood for. Make sure he understands that.’”

The story ends with that quote, which is fairly revealing about Hamilton and his private conversation with Stone’s mother. I would love to know more about the family’s faith, but reports suggest they shun media attention. I couldn’t help wonder whether other readers lacked context for this quote, but perhaps ESPN assumes its audience knows about Hamilton’s background and faith. The Associated Press uses the same quote but gives a little more explanation towards the bottom of its story.

[Rangers president Nolan Ryan] also made sure Hamilton felt comfortable being part of this. Hamilton is a recovering substance abuser whose career nearly was derailed by his personal demons.

“I went to Josh before we decided anything and asked Josh how he felt about it, because I didn’t want to put Josh in any awkward position,” Ryan said.

Hamilton said he prayed to help steel himself for the moment, and to know what to say.

“The Lord gave me words at the right time,” he said. “I’m not good with speeches. Not good with knowing what I’m going to say before. Because I rehearse it too much and it don’t sound genuine. So I just kind of let it happen. It worked out good. … You could tell she was really emotional about coming back to the park. The little one, he’s young enough where he understands but at the same time it’s not as emotional for him as it is mom.”

It’s not terribly unusual for Christian athletes to pray, but offering this extra context of Hamilton’s background gives readers a few more religion clues. How many athletes would come out and ask someone whether their dead husband believed in Christ? That sounds fairly bold to me, but maybe that’s to be expected of Hamilton.

Following up on this story, I am curious whether any reporters asked him to elaborate on how his faith has played a role in mentally sorting out this tragedy. Has he questioned his faith at all, or does it help him through these kinds of events? Back in July when the fan fell to his death, Bobby asked whether reporters would ask Hamilton to elaborate on what he means when he suggests that “God has a plan” in a situation such as this. There are tough questions to be asked that could have interesting answers.

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  • Raf Fak

    What if she responded by saying that her husband didn’t believe in Christ?……..Whoops.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    See, that’s why it kind of surprised me. Was he going to try to evangelize to her in front of the crowd? Maybe he would, I don’t know.

  • Passing By

    What’s interesting is that Hamilton, unlike some celebrity Christians, isn’t that quick to the religious comment. I’m surprised at it here.

    Nice that the AP article included the info about the celebrity auction.

    …or care that the Rangers lost 9-0

    So young to be so cruel…

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Passing By, do you mean when he talks about it, he doesn’t jump right to the Christian angle? Do you think a part of that is because of his past?

    Hm, perhaps I’m a bit harsh. :)

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    A friend sent this video of Hamilton talking about his faith:

  • mitch
  • http://!)! Passing By

    I’ve seen advertisements for the Iamsecond vid, but am really talking about routine post-game interviews. It’s come up around here a fair amount, of course, as would be expected.

    BTW, the Stone family is known around here to be active Methodists, so Hamilton probably knew the answer to his question before he asked it. That’s not counting the possibility that God answered his prayer for guidance.

    perhaps I’m a bit harsh/i>

    It’s ok, I’m in a more magnanimous frame of mind tonight. :-)