LOS ANGELES – A diehard Indians fan didn't think twice about giving up his seat when he noticed former player Kenny Lofton struggling to get on a flight to Cleveland for Game 1 of the World Series.
After all, Lofton was supposed to throw out the first pitch before the game.
Ken Kostal, of Marblehead, Ohio, had just finished judging the National Chili Cook-off in Reno, Nevada, and was hoping to catch a red-eye flight home out of Los Angeles Monday night, but the plane was overbooked and delayed twice.
When the plane was finally ready to leave, Kostal said he was in the last group to board when former Cleveland Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton came to the gate.
"Kenny Lofton went walking by and he's about four or five people up and a couple people started taking his picture and he made the comment, 'I don't know if I'm going to be able to get on this plane,'" Kostal told WJW.
Kostal, who owns the Big Boppers Restaurant in Marblehead, said he is a huge Indians fan and was a season ticket holder with other friends in the 90s when Lofton was playing, so he knows who he is.
He also knew Lofton was chosen to throw out the first pitch at the opening game of the World Series.
Kostal believes Lofton may have been scheduled for one of several other flights that were cancelled and was doing his best to get on another flight to Cleveland.
"When he got closer, you know, he had some type of ticket but it obviously wasn't the right ticket and me being a Cleveland fan I said, 'I'll give you my ticket' and he looked at me and said, 'I might take you up on it,'" said Kostal.
Kostal said Lofton went to the desk at the gate and while talking with the employee at the desk motioned his way. With Kostal's blessing, the employee scratched off his name and wrote Lofton's on the ticket.
He said the airline employee warned him she could not give him anything in exchange for giving up his seat, but it didn't matter.
For Kostal, a selfie with the former Indians outfielder was payment enough. Lofton also gave him his business card in exchange for a Big Boppers pen.
Kostal says he was re-scheduled for another flight that arrived in Cleveland at 5 p.m., but e-mailed Lofton to see how the flight went and Lofton responded.
He said Lofton told him he would try to get an autographed bat for him to hang in the restaurant, but Kostal said that wasn't important.
Lofton also promised to give him a shout-out on a nationally-televised sports program, which he did on Tuesday.
On social media, some Indians fans hoped Kostal could get a World Series ticket for his sacrifice. Kostal said he didn't have plans to go to a World Series game because of his work requirements. He realized he might be far too tired to even stay awake for Game 1 after a long night in Los Angeles.
Kostal's wife, Dona, told WJW that she expected her husband to be at the restaurant at 8 a.m., but, since he wasn't, she had to take the day off from her job to work at the restaurant, but she wasn't complaining.
Although she isn't as familiar with sports figures as her husband, she does know who Lofton is and understands why her husband was willing to give up his seat.AlertMe