Indians’ home runs grant wish of young fan

CLEVELAND — An 8-year-old Cleveland Indians fan with cerebral palsy had a wish straight out of Hollywood: He asked two of his favorite players to hit home runs.

And Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis sure know how to follow a script.

Before Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, Niko Lanzarotta and his family were on the field watching the Indians take batting practice. The youngster met several players and asked Santana and Kipnis if they would hit knock one out of the park for him.

How could they say no?

Santana, who is Niko’s favorite player, hit a two-run homer in the first. Kipnis added a two-run shot in the third. Niko’s night was made complete when the Indians defeated the Twins 7-2.

Niko and his family live in suburban Strongsville. Niko was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at eight months. The Indians, who are fighting for a playoff spot, may want to give Niko a ticket for the remainder of the reason. Cleveland has won all six games he’s attended.

Niko came to the game with his parents, Mike and Kasia. It turned out to be a memorable trip for everyone.

“It was an awesome experience,” Mike Lanzarotta said. “It was the best day of his life. To meet Carlos, to be that close, and for him to hit a home run. … To see your kid that happy is a great thing.”

Both players were pleased they were able to grant Niko’s wish.

“They told me I was their favorite player, and I promised to hit a home run for him,” Santana said.

“He must be a good luck charm for us two,” said Kipnis, who broke an 0-for-19 slump earlier in the game and homered for the first time since July 21.

Mike Lanzarotta said his son fell in love with baseball playing in an area league that’s open to children with disabilities. Niko’s passion for the game also includes following the Indians.

It’s a familiar baseball story that’s happened from time to time over the years, and it always brings to mind Babe Ruth in 1926. That chapter of baseball lore began when a young New Jersey boy named Johnny Sylvester was kicked in the head by a horse and told his father, “I wish I could see Babe Ruth wallop a homer before I die.”

His father managed to get through to Ruth. And the Babe, never one for understatement, hit not one homer in Game 4 of the World Series that year against the St. Louis Cardinals, but three.

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