Santana continues to be touched by support from Niko, the home run kid from 2013
Following Sunday’s matinee against the Royals at Progressive Field, Indians catcher Carlos Santana realized the home run he had hit was not just any ordinary home run. Prior to the game, Tribe fan Niko Lanzarotta had requested that Santana hit a home run for him, and Santana delivered.
You might remember Niko; he visited Progressive Field on August 24, 2013, for batting practice and an Indians game through Tribe Rewards. Before the game, Niko met Santana — his favorite Tribe player — and infielder Jason Kipnis and asked each of them to hit a home run for him. They did. (Niko then returned on Sept. 7, as the people who caught those home run balls gave them to Niko. Pretty cool.)
This time around, Niko — who has cerebral palsy — arrived early to Progressive Field with his parents. Niko’s mother, Kasia, called Santana over to the stands while he was stretching. Just like last year, Niko’s only request for the first baseman was for him to hit a home run. And he did.
Santana said he was willing to make the promise with Niko under one condition.
“He called my name and I went over there,” Santana said. “He said, ‘I want you to hit a home run.’ And I said, ‘The only way I will hit a home run is if you give me a hug.’ He gave me a hug — really tight.”
This time, the home run came in the form of a solo home run to right field that gave the Indians an early 1-0 lead in the second inning.
Santana said he never thought about his interaction with Niko during the game.
“I didn’t think about it [at the plate]. I thought about it after the game,” Santana said. “God heard him or heard me about his situation. I always try to play my game and help my team win; God heard Niko.”
Although he might not think about Niko at the plate, he is definitely appreciative of his support.
“He is motivation because I know he has [cerebral palsy], and it makes it exciting for me [to make him happy],” Santana said. “I am very proud of Niko.
Santana’s message to Niko?
“Keep being strong. Keep respecting Mom and Dad,” he said. “I’m very happy that he is my No. 1 fan.”
–TribeVibe contributor Megan Golden