Niko returns to Progressive Field, with more surprises in store
Remember Niko Lanzarotta? On August 24, he met Carlos Santana – his favorite player – and Jason Kipnis on the field before the Tribe’s game against the Twins.
Now famously, he asked each to hit a home run. And each did, Santana in the first and Kipnis in the third.
After Niko’s visit and home run ask went viral, Carlos asked Indians Baseball Information Director Bart Swain to bring Niko back. Little did he know that, shortly before, I’d received an email forward from WKNR.
Megan Gillombardo, a special needs teacher in the Mayfield School District, had contacted WKNR to tell them she had caught Santana’s home run ball and would like to give it to Niko.
A week later, Mike Larkin had called the Indians Fan Services department. He had caught Kipnis’ home run ball, which was tossed from the bullpen up into the stands. He also wanted to give the ball to Niko.
So Megan and Mike joined Niko and his parents, Mike and Kasia, at Progressive Field before Saturday’s game against the Mets.
Santana stopped over first, giving Niko a hug and signing his shirt. Then it was Michael Bourn, who gave Niko his batting gloves. Then Asdrubal Cabrera, and Kipnis, and Mike Aviles, and Jason Kubel, and more.
Niko, as you might expect, was quite delighted. Megan and Mike, too, were happy to be here; Megan cited her work with special needs children as motivating her to give the ball to Niko.
–TribeVibe contributor Joel Hammond