Rangers' Ryan visits hospitalized fan

Updated: July 7, 2010, 7:54 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A firefighter remains hospitalized but is in good spirits after falling an estimated 30 feet while trying to catch a foul ball during Tuesday's game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Tyler Morris, 25, who works at the Lake Cities Fire Department near Dallas, fell over the railing in the club section of section 235 and landed in the lower deck down the first-base line during the fifth inning of the Texas Rangers' 12-1 win over the Cleveland Indians.

Morris suffered fractures to his skull, foot and ankle, according to Rangers team president Nolan Ryan. Four other fans in the field-level section where Morris landed were treated at the ballpark for minor injuries and watched the rest of the game.

"Everything was happening so fast," said Kevin Conner, who attended the game with Morris. "The ball went over us and bounced off the seats ... and he went toward it. Then he flipped all the way around but grabbed onto the railing (before falling). That's what saved his life."

Conner said Morris had not been drinking at the game.

Ryan visited Morris on Wednesday at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. The Hall of Fame pitcher brought the injured fan several pieces of Rangers memorabilia, including a bat autographed by Josh Hamilton, a ball autographed by Vladimir Guerrero and the ball that Morris was attempting to catch when he fell.

"He was in very good spirits," Ryan said. "He's a die-hard Ranger fan, grew up a Ranger fan, grown up in the area and hasn't lost any enthusiasm about the Rangers."

Conner said Morris, who was joking with friends and family, is expected to be released from the hospital soon.

"Tyler's used to being the person that helps other people, and now he's in the position of needing help," said Ben Westcott, a close friend and firefighter in the Fort Worth suburb of Watauga. "He said he's thankful to be alive, and he knows he's lucky."

Morris fell over the 30 -inch railing after he turned around to try to field a Nelson Cruz foul ball that hit off the wall at the back of section 235.

Morris told Ryan that the last thing he remembered was hitting the digital ribbon board beneath the suite directly below his seat.

Play was suspended for 16 minutes while paramedics treated Morris and the other fans. Morris was responsive and able to move his extremities immediately after the fall.

"I was expecting him to look worse than he is," Ryan said. "If you think about what happened to him and where he is today, it's pretty remarkable. I think being a firefighter and being in the shape that he's in probably worked in his favor."

Ryan met with several members of the Rangers organization Wednesday morning to review the incident, the team's policies and whether it could have been handled any differently. Ryan praised the response of the paramedics, ushers and security.

"I think our folks handled it real well," Ryan said. "I was pleased with that and I feel very good about our organization and the way that we handled a crisis."

This is the second time a fan has fallen over the railing at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. A woman fell over the upper-deck railing in right field on April 11, 1994, the day of the first official game in the ballpark, while posing for a picture. She suffered a broken arm, two broken ribs and fractures in her neck.

The Rangers raised the railing in that section from 30 inches to 46 inches. However, Rangers spokesman John Blake said that decision was made by former team president Tom Schieffer because a restaurant was located in that section, meaning it was open at times when the rest of the ballpark was not. Hundreds of warning signs were posted on rails around the ballpark after that incident.

Ryan said the Rangers are not considering increasing the height of any other railings after Morris' frightening fall. The rails are 30 inches tall and 42 inches at the aisle. Building codes require them to be 26 inches.

"We do feel like this was strictly an accident, one of those unfortunate things that happen," said Ryan, adding that the Rangers might add more warning signs or make warning announcements during games. "It's pretty hard to guard against something of that nature."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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