Celebrating the legacy of ‘The Sandlot’

Celebrating the legacy of ‘The Sandlot’

20th anniversary of  classic film

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Photo: Patrick Renna calls his shot in “The Sandlot”; a 20th Anniversary screening takes place Aug. 10 at Fifth Third Field

 I recently learned, once again, to never under-estimate the power and appeal of a scrappy underdog. In preparation for our coverage of the 20th anniversary tour of “The Sandlot,” which will take place Saturday, Aug. 10 at Fifth Third Field in Dayton, I set up a refresher screening of the film for myself with a group of teenagers from my Lighthouse Youth Crisis Center film club, totally expecting this to be an exclusive first-time event for the kids. Additionally, I assumed they might be less engaged with the sports-themed subject because baseball – especially the sandlot, playground and/or stickball variety of the game – is no longer a staple for contemporary kids. As a fortysomething oldhead, I couldn’t imagine today’s youth being familiar with Babe Ruth – or any of the multitude of nicknames for the great slugger – and getting “caught in a pickle,” which was an offshoot skill game I spent far too many hours playing back in the day.

But low and behold, as soon as I popped the DVD in the player and the movie cued up, several of the kids snapped to attention, identifying characters or their favorite moments. More importantly, not one of them complained about watching a movie they were so obviously familiar with. So, I immediately added to the experience by shuffling the collector’s edition trading cards with character photos and quotes that came with the DVD and passing them out amongst the kids. Every girl in the group wanted the card of Benjamin “Benny” Franklin Rodriguez (Mike Vitar), the hunky all-star of the ragtag sandlot players, but each character, no matter how small a role they had or how geeky they came off, found a willing kid collector.

The amazing thing about that screening of “The Sandlot” was that the movie, with its decidedly old-fashioned, family friendly, down-home appeal, resonated with a group of contemporary kids with no immediate or tangible connection to the game of baseball. Intriguingly, when filmed 20 years ago, the film was period piece, set even then in a largely bygone era. It is hard to imagine a studio daring to take a chance of the pitch for “The Sandlot” today.

I shared my special screening experience with David Mickey Evans, the director, co-writer and narrator of “The Sandlot,” who will be on-hand for the celebration tour at Fifth Third Field, and I asked him about the likelihood of movie making its way to the screen in the current system.

Could you (get this film made today)? “Yeah. There’s no such thing as impossible, but would it be easy? No, not at all. And you certainly wouldn’t be able to make this movie at a studio.”

Evans went on to define the studio – primarily films made for $100 million or more – versus the independent – everything else – paradigm, and his embrace of the indie model, where he’s got “total control, or at least as close as you can get to it. The difficulty with the indie model is money, getting financed.” There are so many business factors at play in the process – stars, foreign sales, etc. – that the elements getting the short end of the stick, like character and story, disappear in the mix.

“Look,” Evans pointed out, “I like a big tent pole, popcorn blockbuster as much as the next guy, but the movies that mean the most are the ones that get inside you and that has to do with identification – that you are associating yourself with one of those characters and what they are going through or you want to be like them.”

That’s exactly what captivated my film club participants and what is bringing audiences out for the anniversary tour. Let’s hope a few of the bean counters at the studios are keeping score.

 

The Dayton Dragons are hosting the Donatos Pizza Family Movie Night screening of “The Sandlot 20th Anniversary Tour” will be coming to Fifth Third Field in Dayton on Saturday, Aug. 10. Director, Co-Writer and Narrator of the movie, David Mickey Evans, will serve as the host for the evening. Along with meeting fans and signing autographs, Evans will also be hosting a special trivia contest before the movie to award special giveaways. The gates for the event open at 6 p.m. and the movie will begin at 8 p.m.  Families are invited to bring a blanket and find a spot on the stadium’s outfield grass and enjoy a night of fun at the ballpark. To get tickets to the event, order any large Donatos pizza or oven baked sub from any Dayton-area Donatos location to get an order form for up to five movie night tickets. 

 Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com

 

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