The legend of Babe Ruth promising to hit a home run for a sick little boy actually is a true story, even if it sounds too fanciful really to have happened. Even in today's modern game, stories surface of kids — sick or healthy — asking for the unlikely and getting it. Mo Vaughn did, once upon a time. Mets slugger David Wright was asked to hit a home run earlier this season. He did it, then gave the kid a hug. Back in 2011, Willie Bloomquist (of all people) came through for a young man in Phoenix.
All right, fine. But what about two home runs? Double impossible? Not to Niko Lanzarotta, an 8-year-old from Strongsville, Ohio dealing with cerebral palsy since he turned 8 months old. In a pregame meeting with Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis of the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night at Progressive Field, Lanzarotta asked both of them to hit a home run for him. Santana was asked with the added pressure of knowing he was Lanzarotta's favorite player (good choice, kid).
And you know what? Santana and Kipnis came through for Lanzarotta. Each hit a home run and the Indians beat the Minnesota Twins 7-2.
Willing yourself to hit a home runs sounds like a tough assignment, even for the most prolific of sluggers. But when you consider that Lanzarotta is excelling in life despite CP, hey, it can't be all that tough. Santana even appeared to point at Niko in the stands after circling the bases.
It might not be 100 percent coincidence, either, that Santana and Kipnis hit home runs with Niko and his parents, Mike and Kasia, attending a ballgame. Via the Associated Press:
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 attended.
"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.
Would it be too much for the Indians to ask, if they brought Niko back for every home game, to ask him to guarantee victory?
Mike Lanzarotta said his son fell in love with baseball playing in an area league that's open to children with disabilities.
In a way, that's one of the most attractive aspects of baseball: You don't have to be a great athlete (or totally able-bodied) in order to play it. Certainly not in order to love it.
Big BLS H/N: CBS Eye on Baseball