CLEVELAND -- Kenny Lofton did not only dream of becoming a sports star when he was growing up. His youthful imagination would also take hold when he was in a movie theater, watching in wonder as farfetched fiction seemed so real on the silver screen.
Lofton's mind would not settle simply for what he saw. He wanted to know how incredible movie characters -- the bigger-than-life shark in "Jaws" or the curious little alien in "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" -- were brought to life. Such cinematic magic inspired him to pursue a career in film, one that was put on hold while he starred on the Major League Baseball stage.
"I wanted to be the next Steven Spielberg," Lofton said. "I was very interested in how creative he was with all the stuff he did, the special effects and everything. I thought, 'Wow, I want to do something like that.' When you're in baseball, you have to focus on baseball. But I felt like, eventually, I would start going down that path."
Cleveland fans are familiar with Lofton's achievements on a baseball diamond. Now, they will get a chance to see him in a new light.
On Thursday, Lofton will be back in the Cleveland area for the screening of the inspirational movie "My First Miracle," which was produced by his company, FilmPool Inc. The movie will be screened at Atlas Cinemas Lakeshore 7 in Euclid, Ohio, in partnership with the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, and a portion of the proceeds will go to MetroHealth's Cancer Care Family Community Room.
Lofton spent parts of 17 seasons in the Majors -- 10 of those with the Indians. In Cleveland, he was a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award recipient. The once-fleet-footed center fielder is revered in Cleveland for his role on the Indians team that reached the World Series in 1995, and he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2010.
Lofton wants his fans to know he has been doing a lot more since his baseball career ended.
"This was a good opportunity to let people see what I've been doing," Lofton said. "And I want the city of Cleveland to try to get behind me with what I'm trying to do for the city. When you bring movies into cities like Cleveland, you bring jobs and opportunities for people."
Lofton also viewed this particular film as a chance to raise awareness about a rare form of cancer.
"My First Miracle" tells the story of a teenage girl named Angelica, who is fighting Myelodysplastic Syndrome, which is a type of cancer that can affect multiracial people. A specific type of bone marrow transplant is required to help those affected by the disease. The film was written and directed by Rudy Luna, and stars Katya Martin as Angelica, along with actors Quinton Aaron and Sean Pattrick Flannery, among others.
"It's very hard to find a bone marrow match when you have this form of cancer," Lofton said. "That's why I'm trying to get that part of the story out. ... It's something not a lot of people know about. I think this is an opportunity to create awareness for people to give bone marrow if they're multiracial."
Lofton co-founded his production company with Brenton Earley in 2004, when the former outfielder was a member of the Yankees. After his playing career ended in '07, Lofton dedicated his time to FilmPool Inc., which evolved into a boutique post-production company and has now advanced to television and film production with multiple projects in development.
"The bottom is line is just to produce as many films as I can," Lofton said, "and be on the watch list of people saying, 'This production company produces some great films, and we want to work with them.' We want the bigger companies to come to us and say, 'We want to work with you guys. We see the great things you're doing.'"
When Lofton was at the University of Arizona, where he starred in basketball and baseball, he was also pursuing a degree in television and film. While in the Minor Leagues, Lofton completed his degree in studio production, laying the groundwork for his post-baseball career.
"Everyone knows I played basketball and that I played baseball there," Lofton said. "But me getting my degree was never talked about. Now, when people look back, they always say, 'Oh yeah, that's right.' That's how it all got started."
And now, Lofton's dreams of getting into the film industry have resulted in the completion of "My First Miracle."
"It's a team effort of getting it all done," Lofton said. "That's part of what I did back in my day [as a baseball player]. You got a team together, everybody did their job and everyone gets it done. Then, when you see it for the first time, it's very touching. It's like, 'Wow, we put this all together.' And coming to Cleveland to do that, for me, is a great accomplishment."
As for being the next Spielberg?
"I knew that was thinking out of the box, thinking crazy," Lofton said with a laugh.