By Karen Brooks
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A firefighter who fell to his death catching a ball at a Texas Rangers game will be memorialized in a statue paying tribute to the team's fans, Rangers officials said.
The bronze artwork depicting Shannon Stone, 39, and his six-year-old son, Cooper, attending a game will most likely be placed outside the home plate entrance to the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in time for the 2012 baseball season, Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan announced this week.
"We feel that this statue will be a most fitting tribute," Ryan said. "It will not only serve to honor Mr. Stone's memory, but also to recognize Rangers fans and baseball fans everywhere."
Stone died on July 7 after falling more than 20 feet while leaning over the railing to catch a ball tossed by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton during a game. His young son was standing near him when he fell into the lower left field Section 5.
Stone was a 17-year veteran of the fire department in Brownwood, about three hours southwest of Arlington.
His death resulted in increased safety measures at the park, including higher rails, signs and safety announcements before the games.
Stone's wife, Jenny Stone, and the rest of his family will help design and create the statue, which will be paid for by the Rangers.
"Shannon and Cooper had a special relationship, and we are touched and grateful that it will be memorialized at one of their favorite places," Jenny Stone said in a statement.
"Our hope is that this statue will not be a symbol of our family tragedy but rather a reminder of the importance of a family's love -- love of each other, love of spending time together, and love of the game."
(Editing by Jerry Norton)