CLEVELAND (AP) – Mike Napoli’s only season in Cleveland was a memorable one.
Napoli, now playing for the Texas Rangers, made his first appearance at Progressive Field since helping the Indians reach the World Series last season. The veteran first baseman/DH was presented with his American League Championship ring before Monday night’s game by Indians manager Terry Francona.
“It was a special year and it’ll be something I can hopefully tell my kids someday about,” Napoli said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Napoli not only produced on the field — hitting 34 homers with 101 RBIs — he developed a strong fan following. After an early season power surge, a local company began selling “Party at Napoli’s” T-shirts that quickly became popular with teammates and fans.
Sales of the shirts raised over $100,000 for the Cleveland Clinic’s Children’s Hospital. The shirts are also a hot item for the Rangers, whose first supply quickly sold out.
“It’s an unbelievable thing that happened, being able to turn it into something special to raise money for kids,” he said. “Any time I can try to give back, it’s what I want to try to do. Any time I see people with (the) shirts on, it brings a special memory to me.”
Cleveland’s fans haven’t forgotten Napoli. He was given a loud ovation during the ceremony and several signs were seen.
Napoli tipped his cap to the Indians dugout, where his former teammates stood and applauded when he received his ring.
Francona and Napoli met in the manager’s office before batting practice.
“He was sitting on my couch for awhile,” Francona said. “The guys would walk by and see him. A couple of guys came in and almost tried to tackle him — tried. It was fun to see their reaction to him because he’s so well thought of.”
Napoli and Francona developed a close friendship last season.
“He’ll always be someone special to me,” Napoli said. “He’ll be a friend for life. I don’t think we’ll ever lose contact with each other.”
Napoli, 35, signed a one-year contract with the Rangers in January, his third stint with the team. Entering Monday’s game, he was batting .192 with 14 homers and 32 RBIs.
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