‘It hits me really deep:’ Jonathan India forges special bond with fan overcoming illness
The Reds star left a big impression on a young man who in turn left a big impression on him.
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The Cincinnati Reds’ Jonathan India holds a special place in the hearts of Cincinnati fans.
The 2021 National League Rookie of the Year, India shined with the glove and bat in his debut season. He then took up the orange stripes during the Bengals’ Super Bowl run, hovering endearingly somewhere between celebrity and superfan.
Patrick Kinman became a superfan as well. The 18-year-old’s got a wall of framed player jerseys at his home, and India’s stands alone among them as his favorite, not least because it’s signed.
But there’s a curious thing about Kinman’s fandom, because India isn’t some abstract character to him—not anymore. They’re fans of each other now. And they’re friends, too.
Kinman first met India during that Bengals playoff run, at the game against the Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium. By chance it was Kinman’s first-ever Bengals game. He lives in Maryland, but his father is from here, and following Cincinnati sports is something of an inheritance.
“I met my friend Cammy, and she was like, ‘Jonathan India is right over there.’ And I was like, ‘No way!’ She just grabbed me and took me right over to him,’” Kinman recalled.
For India’s part, Kinman left a lasting impression.
“You could tell there was something special about him. He just came up shaking. I remember him shaking, and for a fighter like that, for a kid that has that much joy everyday still? I wanted to become his friend,” India said.
Kinman is a fighter. Diagnosed with congenital heart disease, he’s had four open-heart surgeries already in his life, including one to implant a pacemaker.
Kinman wore India’s Reds jersey the day he left the hospital following his most recent operation. He showed a picture from that day to India during their encounter at PBS. Then they took a picture together and parted ways.
That’s where it might have stopped, but the two made plans to meet again.
“Everyone says to never meet your idols, but if your idol is Jonathan India, you definitely need to meet him,” Kinman said.
It happened on a recent day in Cincinnati, where the reigning Rookie of the Year and the 18-year-old who will soon face his fifth heart surgery reconnected—hugged, laughed, reminisced and even shed a few tears.
“I gave him a piece of advice back in January, about his life and how to continue his life with success and, you know, build your life around yourself and, you know, worry about what you have to do to be successful in life,” India recalled. “You know, don’t let friends drag you down. Don’t let people drag you down. And he listened to me.”
Kinman furnished proof. “I stopped talking to them and really focused on school,” he said. “I got a 3.6 GPA.”
India left his friend with another message following that sun-drenched reunion—this one in writing.
“It says, ‘Stay strong and keep inspiring,’” Kinman said. “And toward the bottom, he signed it and said, ‘I love you, brother.’”
They took another picture of what now feels like an extended family.
“It hits me in the heart, because I’m happy I put a little strength in him this past year I met him. It hits me really deep. And I’ll always have a friend in him. We’ll always be friends now because that moment was special. He knows it. I’m just blessed to be his friend honestly.”
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