Screams and frightened gasps interrupted Tuesday’s night’s Texas Rangers-Cleveland Indians game when a fan fell 30 feet from the second deck while trying to catch a foul pop.
“Whoa! A fan tumbled out, and I pray that he’s OK,” Rangers play-by-play announcer Josh Lewin said on the Fox Sports Southwest broadcast that I was watching. “Oh my.”
Lewin wasn’t the only one who prayed.
The TV screen showed Indians outfielder Trevor Crowe kneeling face down with his head in his hands.
“What’s he doing?” my 13-year-old son asked, unsure if he was seeing what he thought he was.
“He’s praying,” I confirmed. As emergency personnel at Rangers Ballpark rushed to the fan’s aid, Cleveland shortstop Jason Donald also appeared to be praying.
I have watched a few thousand — OK, a few million — major-league baseball games in my lifetime. Never before that I recall have I seen major-league ballplayers bow on the field in spontaneous prayer. I was curious to see if news reports would pick up on that image. I was pleased to see that some did.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted Donald up high in its game story:
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Indians were on the way to loss No. 50 Tuesday night when a man fell out of the stands at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in the fifth inning.
“I didn’t see it,” said shortstop Jason Donald, after the Indians’ 12-1 loss to Texas, “but I heard it. I heard the body hit and I heard the crowd reaction. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened.”
Donald immediately squatted down in the outfield grass and started praying.
“I was praying that he wouldn’t die,” Donald said.
Now, I’d love to know more. I’d love to know Donald’s faith background. I’d love to know if he prays often or if his appeal for God’s help was an unusual thing for him. But that’s probably asking too much from a deadline game story.
Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News is one of my favorite baseball writers. Devoted Rangers fan that I am, I read Grant’s stories, um, religiously.
Unfortunately, his story did not mention the players praying. Now, that could be because they were Indians, and his beat is the Rangers. But I would suspect that Rangers such as Josh Hamilton, who has made no secret of his evangelical Christian faith, might have been praying, too. I wish Grant had included that angle.
Like the Plain Dealer, the Akron Beacon Journal noticed — and noted — the reactions by Crowe and Donald:
After the incident, Trevor Crowe in left and Jason Donald at shortstop went down on one knee, obviously feeling emotions coursing through them.
”It was crazy,” Crowe said. ”I looked up and saw him coming down. He tried to catch himself [on the suite railing], but he kept coming down. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen.
”I just started praying for the guy. There was nothing to break his fall. I thought he might have killed himself. It affected everybody emotionally, but that’s not the reason we lost the game.”
The game was interrupted for 16 minutes, and just before it restarted, players were told the man was conscious and moving.
”I didn’t see it happen because my head was turned, but I heard it,” Donald said. ”I heard the crowd, I heard the body hit the seats. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. Thank God I didn’t see it. That would have done damage to me.”
Donald retreated to the clubhouse for a couple of minutes to compose himself.
”I was down on one knee, because I was praying for the guy and the people he landed on,” he said. ”It kind of puts in perspective that we’re playing a game. You take your family to a game, and you never think something like this could happen. It’s terrifying.”
Kudos to the Beacon Journal for letting the players describe, in their own words, what they were thinking and feeling. The description of Crowe going down on one knee is not totally accurate, however, as he clearly was down on both knees. A YouTube video (since removed from the Internet by Major League Baseball) confirmed my recollection.
It sounds like the man who fell — and four people slightly injured when he landed on them — will be OK. But players and fans had no way of knowing that at the time.
That made the prayers in the outfield all the more dramatic. And worthy of news coverage.
Photo: That’s my niece and nephew at Monday night’s game. Thankfully, we were not there in person to witness the fan’s fall Tuesday night.
UPDATE: The original video I posted was removed from the Internet by MLB, so I have replaced it with an ESPN Dallas video in which the reporter describes the two Indians players praying.