Indians’ home runs grant wish of young fan

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


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


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


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


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


”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


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.