With several Vikings players unable to make it to Adam Thielen's charity softball game on Tuesday night, long snapper Andrew DePaola stepped in. He began his night pitching to teammates in the home run derby.
He ended it as the star of the show.
DePaola homered in each of his four at-bats in the game at CHS Field, which pitted the Vikings' offense against their defense and special teams to benefit the Thielen Foundation. Though the event organizers set up a temporary fence in the middle of the outfield for the charity event, DePaola, a middle infielder at Hereford High School in Parkland, Md., didn't need it on two of his four homers.
He was the only player to send a pitch over the permanent fence, homering off the left-field foul pole in his first at-bat as the defense and special teams chased Thielen from the mound in just one-third of an inning. Then, in his third at-bat, DePaola sent a Dalvin Cook pitch onto the berm in left field for the longest homer of the night.
"I just wanted to be here to support Adam and the Thielen family; I mean, they're great people," DePaola said. "I was happy to step in. And then, some great pitching [from Cook] gave me some nice, juicy ones to hit. I did my job."
With the offense up two runs in the final inning, Cook rolled his first two pitches toward DePaola. He contemplated walking the long snapper, he joked, but ultimately didn't because the crowd "was gonna boo me." When Cook pitched to him, DePaola hit a two-run shot to tie the game at 14.
In the bottom of the seventh, the offense put two runners on to bring up K.J. Osborn — who'd won the home run derby in a tiebreaker with Thielen earlier in the night. Osborn hit a three-run walk-off homer, trotting around the bases as teammates doused him with water bottles and receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette grabbed a microphone to celebrate.
"You saw it here — the camaraderie, getting to know the guys," DePaola said. "I mean, I don't know if anyone knew I could play baseball; they do now. This community supports us so much. Just to be able to give back, be here and say hi to the fans, I think that's important to do. They can see you're real people and get to know you a little bit more. This was just awesome."