This is one of those sports moments you don't forget. One of the greatest and saddest at the very same time.
With a stadium of baseball fans on their feet, many with tears in their eyes, 6-year-old Cooper Stone stood tall on the pitcher's mound and threw the ceremonial first pitch of the American League playoffs to his favorite player, MVP Josh Hamilton. The Rangers played the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the AL division series.
You may recall, Cooper is the young boy who saw his firefighter father fall to his death while trying to catch a ball tossed to him by Hamilton during a Texas game on July 7. Yesterday was the boy's first trip back to Rangers Ballpark since the freak accident.
Wearing a red Rangers jersey featuring Hamilton's No. 32, and "Cooper" on the back, the boy threw a strike to Hamilton, who was crouched like a catcher about halfway to home plate. Pretty good for a first-grader in front of a crowd of 50,498. Hamilton, an outfielder who has been through his share of personal struggles, stood to catch the pitch, then pumped his fist.
Hamilton then walked to the front of the mound to meet Cooper and his mom Jenny for the first time.
He embraced the boy, then Jenny. Hamilton held her for a while, speaking words in her ear that made it tough for her to control her emotions.
And we all cried along.
We'll probably go through the same emotions next season, when the Rangers unveil a statue of Shannon and Cooper outside the home-plate entrance as a tribute to the father and son - forever linked by their love of baseball.
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