Young Indians fan returns to get home run balls

CLEVELAND (AP) — Niko Lanzarotta is becoming a fixture at Progressive Field. And that’s just fine with the Cleveland Indians.

The 8-year-old Indians fan with cerebral palsy had a special wish granted last month at the ballpark and returned to see his favorite team play the New York Mets on Saturday.

Before the July 24 game against Minnesota, he asked Indians catcher Carlos Santana — his favorite player — and second baseman Jason Kipnis if they would hit a home run for him. In a script straight out of a movie, both came through. Before Saturday’s game, Niko received the home run balls from the fans who caught them that night.

Niko and his parents watched the Indians take batting practice. He had his picture taken with Santana and Kipnis, and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera gave him his batting gloves.

The Indians are undefeated when Niko attends a game. His story has gained a lot of attention locally and around the country. Niko, beaming with a grin from ear to ear, was surrounded by photographers as he and his father, Mike, and mother, Kasia, came on the field Saturday.

“It’s been just phenomenal,” Mike Lanzarotta said. “Friends have told me that we’ve become stars. I tell them, ‘I’m not the star. He is. I’m just the agent.'”

Niko, wearing an Indians T-shirt with Santana’s name and No. 41 on the back, talked with several players and got autographs.

Niko and his family live in suburban Strongsville. Niko was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at eight months. In addition to following the Indians, Niko plays baseball in an area league that’s open to children with disabilities.

In addition to all the fun with the home runs, it looks as if Niko could be a big brother soon. Kasia Lanzarotta is expecting twins.

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