As the MLB All-Stars convened in Kansas City for the annual Home Run Derby, a different collection of would-be bat-swingers got together in Buffalo for an identical event.
And Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski won the celebrity home run contest, according to Steve Silva of Boston.com.
Gronkowski beat out Bills CEO Russ Brandon, who played college baseball. Per Silva, Gronkowski hit a total of 12 dingers over two rounds. In the finals, he slugged eight homers, while Brandon mustered a mere seven.
“It was a little nerve-wracking going out there,” Gronkowski said, via Mike Haim of metrowny.com. “My heart was beating fast, it kind of felt like playing a football game. . . . “I’m always trying to win. I would be disappointed if I didn’t.”
Gronkowski, a native of the Buffalo area but now a star for the locally-despised Patriots, was concerned about receiving a Matt Cassel-style reception. “I was wondering what I was going to get,” Gronkowski said. “[I got] a couple of cheers and a couple of boos. I heard the boos, but I think the cheers were louder. It’s all part of it and it was fun.”
The event preceded the Triple-A Home Run Derby, held before more than 17,00 fans. And while the celebrities used a shorter porch, which was perched midway through the outfield, Gronkowski reportedly sent one ball soaring nearly 400 feet.
Contestants included Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, Bill Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure, Bills running back Fred Jackson, actor Nick Bakay, and former Panthers, Bills, and Colts G.M. Bill Polian.
For Gronkowski, it was a far tamer affair than the other things he’s been doing since becoming one of the most famous/notorious players in the NFL. Although it would have been a lot more interesting if he’d celebrated by spiking a baseball — and if it had bounced up and hit him in the place where baseballs tend to inflict a significant amount of relatively short-term, delayed-reaction pain.