LOS ANGELES– After judging the National Chili Cook-off in Reno, Nevada, Ken Kostal of Marblehead, Ohio, was hoping to catch a red-eye flight home out of Los Angeles at 10:45 p.m. California-time Monday, but the plane was overbooked and delayed twice.
When the plan finally was 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 Fox 8 News.
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.
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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. Kostal went to the desk still offering his ticket and the employee scratched off his name and wrote Lofton’s name 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.
“Obviously, he wasn’t booked on that flight, must have been trying to rush it, you know, when I said ‘I’ll give you my ticket,’ you know? The ticket lady she made it happen and all that,” said Kostal.
He said he stopped to take a selfie with the former Indians outfielder, who 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 he 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 Fox 8 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.