CLEVELAND -- Kat Heintzelman hoped for the hug. The home run would simply be a bonus. Both of the requests were incredibly answered Monday by Indians first basmen Mike Napoli, who continued to serve as a distraction Wednesday for her daunting road ahead.From Heintzelman's seats down the left-field line, she
CLEVELAND -- Kat Heintzelman hoped for the hug. The home run would simply be a bonus. Both of the requests were incredibly answered Monday by Indians first basmen Mike Napoli, who continued to serve as a distraction Wednesday for her daunting road ahead.
From Heintzelman's seats down the left-field line, she watched Napoli launch another home run during Cleveland's 5-4, 11-inning win over the Rangers on Wednesday night. One day after she began chemotherapy for Stage 3 colon cancer, Napoli came through for her again, just as he did when she showed up Monday with a poster and a prayer.
"He homered again for me," Heintzelman said with a smile. "Imagine that. It's crazy."
Their story began before Monday's series opener against the Rangers. Heintzelman arrived with a sign that read, "Chemo starts tomorrow. Mike Napoli, can I get a hug and a homer?" Napoli walked over to meet Heintzelman, who is a season-ticket holder from Youngstown, Ohio. The first baseman put his arm around Kat and posed for a photo.
And then, in the sixth inning on Monday, Napoli belted a solo home run. It was a moment that carried more meaning than the Tribe's 9-2 defeat.
"It was pretty cool," Napoli said with a smile. "I got to talk to her for a little bit. She started chemo. We just talked about how awesome it worked out. It was a cool moment."
The Indians tracked down Heintzelman, who had tickets to Wednesday's game as well, along with her fiance, Scott, and son, Garrett. The team arranged a pregame meeting, in which she got to chat with the team's first baseman on the field. That brief conversation meant the world to Heintzelman -- a follower of Napoli's career since he broke into the big leagues.
"I think that was more awesome than anything else that's happened," she said. "I actually really got to get a hug from him and actually got to talk to him when he wasn't pressed for time so much. It was pretty cool."
Their story did not stop there, though.
After Texas grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Napoli answered back with a towering two-run home run to left field off left-hander Cole Hamels. Behind the main section of stands, Heintzelman and her family watched in disbelief. On her second day of chemotherapy -- Kat actually had her medical equipment with her at her seat -- Napoli delivered for her again.
"What I've enjoyed even more is the distraction that all of this has created this week," Heintzelman said. "Things can be so hard for me. I've had a lot of smiles, a lot of laughs. I've had a really good time through this whole thing. It's been a really great distraction."
Those comments made Napoli smile.
"It means a lot," he said. "I'm fortunate to have this opportunity to be able to do something like that, just to be able to give back. I like doing things like that. I've done it throughout my career. To get her mind off of it, even if it was for a minute, it makes me happy."
Heintzelman laughed when asked if she would be at every game now.
"Mike's going to have to pay for the tickets," she quipped.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.