You loved "The Sandlot." Admit it. When the movie came out in 1993, it hit the funny bones of kids and touched a long dormant place in some adults' hearts. It was nostalgic, sappy even, and as you watched it for the sixth time in 10 years, that (and other flaws) probably became obvious. And I'll bet you still loved it.
Part of the fun back then was that the movie circled so closely upon baseball. At its root, that's not really what it was all about, but that was the fun. These guys were good little baseball players; a few were great.
Here's a fun question, then: Which current big league players most resemble each of the quirky characters that so grabbed us all two decades ago? Here are your answers.
How does one find a comparison to the Great Hambino?
Ham Porter was the emotional leader of the Sandlot crew, even if they all really looked to Benny Rodriguez as their captain and commander. Ham led them to battle. He hit a little, he played a competent backstop, but most of all, he brought intensity and some trash talk to the table. Varitek is the only close fit in the game today.
If he were a little bit fatter, he'd be perfect.
We have to be honest here: Team Sandlot would not score many runs. Beyond Benny Rodriguez, they have no sufficiently athletic members to produce runs with power. This is a team built on self-taught fundamentals, lots of singles and a whole lot of desire.
Adam Kennedy knows those teams. He has racked up 91 career games at first base despite a slender frame and little power, mostly because he's good enough to handle the job and others are not always available. He did it for the Mariners last year; Timmy Timmons did it for Team Sandlot in 1993.
This is more an ironic comparison than a realistic one. You might have noticed.
Bertram Weeks is a long, lanky second baseman. He has quick hands but limited range, and most of his value derives from a long but stinging swing. A more honest comparison might be to Ben Zobrist, with less athleticism. But the Weeks thing has to be fate, right? And in fairness, Rickie belongs at a different position as much as Bertram did.
Rodriguez was the Natural. He did everything well, especially running and hitting for power. He also had a relentless love for the game, an unquenchable thirst for it. He played his hardest at times when others were practically taking the day off. Evan Longoria might be the closest thing in the game today to that spirit, especially at the position.
If the name there looks unfamiliar, it's because you know Alan as "Yeah-Yeah." What we're after then, is a yappy, glove-first shortstop, preferably a smallish man whose ego appreciably outstrips his skills.
Rafael Furcal, come on down. The progenitor of "happy flight," the man once known as El Enano (the Dwarf) and an overrated hitter whose primary value has always derived from his rocket arm and smooth work on double plays, Furcal is the man.
Hot damn, this one is good. Easy choice.
You can't help but love Fuld, nor could you much dislike Smalls. They are misfits; they hardly seem to belong on the diamond at all. Yet, they each man (primarily) left field, a big man's position, and they do it well enough to stay in the lineup.
I was there the day Sam Fuld hit his first career home run, and it would have been no surprise at all if he had left the baseline between first and second base and attempted to scale the vines at Wrigley Field.
Tommy was the little brother of first baseman Timmy Timmons, and Ben Revere looks like everyone's little brother. He plays with abandon, intensity and some flair, but it would be no surprise to see him tagging along with Denard Span to a dusty sandlot every day and repeating after him. Also, Revere has a woeful arm out there, and Tommy's rare throws in the movie are invariably weak.
Deep down, Nick Swisher seems like a total nerd. So does Squints, as fans of Team Sandlot know him best. Both men, though, effectively cover that goofiness and insecurity with a certain machismo and constant expressions of wolfish appetites. Oh, and like Squints, Swisher is a right fielder with little defensive value but a fantastic plate approach.
Pitcher is but a title to Kenny DeNunez. He's a thrower by trade, surviving on bravado and "The Heater," not finesse or precision. His max-effort delivery doesn't seem to damage his durability at all, which is curious, but there he is, throwing his heat past people every day. James McDonald, the Pirates' most promising big league hurler, is in the same mold.