Eight-year-old Niko Lanzarotta is an avid baseball fan and player. And at a Cleveland Indians game Saturday night, he got to see a baseball dream come true, thanks to his parents, his mom’s boss, his own tenacity, and two Cleveland Indians players.
Saturday, Niko watched the Indians’ batting warm up before their game against the Minnesota Twins. Niko spent time down on the field and met several of his favorite players, one of whom gave him a signed bat, according to Fox 8 Cleveland. This would have made his night, but it got better. Niko asked two of the players, Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis, to hit a home run for him.
Both said they would.
“They told me I was their favorite player, and I promised to hit a home run for him,” Santana said, delivering on his promise when he hit a two-run homer in the first inning.
Kipnis did the same in the third. “He must be a good luck charm for us two,” said Kipnis, whose home run was his first since July 21. The Indians won the game 7-2.
Niko has cerebral palsy, diagnosed when he was 8 months old. Niko’s parents, Mike and Kasia Lanzarotta, watched the excitement of Saturday’s game with him. His dad said, “It was an awesome experience. 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.”
Niko’s passion for baseball took off when he got the opportunity to play with a league called NEO Challenger Baseball in Ohio, which is open to children with disabilities. Now, instead of watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, Niko prefers to watch baseball.
Not stopping at any challenge, the Lanzarotta’s have worked hard with their son to find success in spite of his condition, and have used their struggle to help other families.
Niko’s family and friends started “Team Niko,” supporting him and other members of the community with similar situations.
The Lanzarottas completed a triathlon earlier this month, with Niko walking across the finish line. Rows of fans cheered for him as he crossed.
The team’s slogan is “Inspired to Tri.” On the team's website, Niko’s parents said, “He is our inspiration and our hero; he pushes us to never give up. Because of him we have learned not to take simple things for granted, and we cherish every day. … We know how much it takes for him to take a single step. But most importantly he is doing it.”