The ball arching against Chase Field’s bright lights, Keith Carmickle climbed up on a narrow table, leaned forward and lost his balance, momentum carrying him toward a 20-foot fall to a pool deck below
Had it not been for the quick reactions of his brother, a friend and a handful of fans Monday night at Major League Baseball’s All-Star Home Run Derby, Carmickle might have suffered the same fate as Shannon Stone, the Texas Rangers’ fan who died Thursday night trying to catch a ball thrown into the stands.
“I thought: I’ve lived a good life,” Carmickle said.
Seated in a small section of seats above the right-field fence, Carmickle, from Kingman, and his group had already grabbed home run balls by Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez, and were looking to add another to their collection when Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder came up in the second round of the derby.
Trying to snare a towering shot by Fielder, Carmickle stepped up onto a metal table about 18 inches wide and reached down for the catch. He missed the ball, which hit the wall several feet below him, and the momentum carried him forward, headfirst over a short railing.
Carmickle was headed for a hard landing when his friend, Aaron Nelson, grabbed his legs and his brother, Kraig, grabbed him around the arms. The crowd above and below gasping, Carmickle dangled briefly over a deck where a couple of cameras were positioned behind Chase Field’s pool before his brother, Nelson and a few fans pulled him back to his seat.
The near miss was eerily similar to what happened to Stone, the 39-year-old memorialized in Texas earlier Monday after falling 20 feet to his death while trying to catch a ball thrown into the stands by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.
“He tried to catch it, I grabbed his legs and his brother grabbed his arms,” said Nelson, who, along with Kraig Carmickle, is from Chandler. “So when he went over the ledge, we pulled him back. He wasn’t going down, I was holding on.”
The Carmickles and Nelson gathered themselves after the close call and let out a few shouts before breaking into high-fives. They relived the moment with a few of the fans around them, then again as they looked at photos taken by an Arizona Republic photographer, who had shots from behind of Carmickle standing on the table, then falling.
They spoke with security personnel a few minutes later and were allowed to remain in the game, with Carmickle putting his arm around a security guard who told him to be careful before he walked back to his seat.
“I stepped up on the table, I missed the ball by 2 or 3 feet and went over,” he said. “We caught three balls and I told the guys I was going to go for the cycle. Dude, they were really holding onto me.”
Fielder didn’t notice the close call and continued his turn in the derby.
“I didn’t see it,” he said. “We don’t need any of that.”
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