Whenever Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand finishes his warm-up tosses between innings, he flings the ball into the stands.
It looks like an absent-minded goodwill gesture. In truth, it's as carefully executed as a throw to home plate.
"If you watch, I never throw it to the railing. I throw it to the middle of the crowd," Rowand explained as the Giants prepared for a six-game homestand. "You lob it. You don't fire it in there, because you don't want to hurt anybody.
"And you make sure everybody in the area is looking at you when you throw, so nobody gets blindsided in the side of the head."
Like so many others in the baseball community, Rowand is heartbroken for Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, whose act of kindness set off a tragedy at Rangers Stadium on July 7. Shannon Stone, a 39-year-old firefighter, died after falling over a railing while trying to catch a ball flipped to the stands by Hamilton, the All-Star outfielder.
In the wake of the fatal accident, major league teams are reviewing stadium safety. Rangers spokesman John Blake told the Dallas Morning News that the team is meeting with contractors, architects and other industry experts to determine "whether to raise railings or do whatever might be appropriate for the safety of our fans."
Stadium officials for Bay Area teams have also reacted to the incident in Texas. Before the A's opened a series against the Angels last Friday, Dave Rinetti, the team's vice president
Similarly, Jorge Costa, the Giants' senior vice president of stadium operations, reviewed fan safety in the game-day memos distributed to about 800 employees.
Each major league team determines its own safety features based on local laws. Both the Giants and A's said their ballparks meet local codes and regulations. "But that doesn't mean we're completely extricated from worrying about things," Costa said. "This is something that consumes me and my staff every day. (The Texas) incident was supposed to be a goodwill gesture from player to fan -- a good, light moment. Obviously, what happened was the most horrible, worst-case scenario."
Players, meanwhile, are also taking stock of their rituals. Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the South Bay native, warmed up before a recent game and began to reflexively toss the ball into the stands. "But I thought twice about it. And I kept the ball in my glove," Tulowitzki told CBS Sportsline.
A's reliever Brad Ziegler understands the reaction but has no plans to alter his regular habit of throwing balls into the stands. Ziegler, 31, still has all the mementos he saved from going to Kansas City Royals games as a kid.
"(Fans) are the reason we play the game," he said. "We enjoy seeing fans smile, making kids happy. People take souvenirs home from the ballpark, and that's something they remember."
A's pitcher Trevor Cahill also enjoys tossing a keepsake into the crowd. But in the immediate aftermath of the Hamilton incident, he, like Tulowitzki, has new reservations. "I mean, I probably won't do it for a while," Cahill said.
Before the All-Star Game in Phoenix last week, commissioner Bud Selig said MLB still embraces the practice of players throwing balls to fans. He called the Texas situation a "horrible accident. It's heartbreaking, it really is. It's almost beyond comprehension to believe something like that could happen."
Selig said each major league team was reviewing its ballpark, especially in areas where fans could be in pursuit of a souvenir.
Rinetti said that, even before the death in Texas, the A's are vigilant about safety at the Coliseum. In recent years, that has meant adding cyclone fencing to the bottom of some railings after worrying that a young child might be able to fall through.
Costa said safety changes at AT&T Park over the years include a drink railing installed along the arcade section atop the right-field wall. Originally designed as an amenity, Costa discovered that the drink railing provided the added benefit of "a lot more substance and structure."
Costa noted that fans have a responsibility as well. Too often, he said, fans forget their surroundings as they fixate on the incoming souvenir. "They're thinking about getting a ball for their son or their daughter or themselves," Costa said. "You hope that no one takes an unreasonable risk."
Rowand, meanwhile, will continue to throw his warm-up ball into the crowd -- albeit as carefully as he can. He watched Angels outfielders Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson do it when he was a kid in the Anaheim stands and vowed he would do the same if he ever reached the majors.
But Rowand stressed that there's a science to it. He chided fellow outfielder Andres Torres for throwing balls toward the front row, saying "half the time it ends up back on the field. Someone bumps somebody, they're all going after it, and now you've got to go pick it up."
Cahill agreed that the Texas incident gives him pause. He knows there's a risk involved even with the most well-intentioned toss.
"Fans are yelling for balls, and you throw them up there, and sometimes you don't get them there," he said. "It's always been one of those things -- especially because you want to throw it to kids, and you don't know if they can catch it or not.
"You try to throw it soft. It's just a fine line. I think fans like to have that connection, but there are so many things that could happen."