Twenty years ago, a bunch of kids were granted the opportunity to shoot a movie called The Sandlot, spend the summer playing baseball and even sneak out to watch Basic Instinct.
Two decades later, the smiles haven't waned and the love for their baseball classic continues to grow.
On Sunday, I had the opportunity to chat with some of the cast as well as the director of a movie many of us grew up with, one that continues to resonate with such power that it garnered an MLB tour of various stadiums to mark the 20th anniversary of its release.
The latest stop is a fitting one. It's where the story begins and ends: Dodger Stadium. As the cast that included, among others, Chauncey Leopardi (Squints), Marty York (Yeah-Yeah), Grant Gelt (Bertram Weeks) and Victor DiMattia (Timmy Timmons) meandered on the field, the sense these were old friends was quite evident.
Summer Fun and R-Rated Mischief
DiMattia thought back on the summer they shot the film as kids. "After we wrapped for the day, we would all go back to where we were staying and go in the swimming pool, go to the movies and stuff...It was like the greatest summer camp ever."
Of course, boys will be boys. It was hilarious to discover that while shooting in Utah, some of the cast managed to sneak out to catch a certain movie starring a rather provocative character played by Sharon Stone.
Director David Mickey Evans heard the story and helped us out with what went down.
"I heard about it way after the fact. I mean, like we said, they are all a bunch of 12- and 13-year-old guys. We all know what happens to us at that age. That summer, we are in Salt Lake City, we are shooting and that movie Basic Instinct came out. Everyone was like, 'Oh my God. Oh my God, Sharon Stone is naked. You got to see this movie.' Of course, none of them could get in."
Struggling to remember what movie the kids initially bought tickets for, Evans asked Gelt what G-rated flick they decided on to hatch their ruse.
The man who played Bertram Grover Weeks couldn't recall the movie they said there were going to see. "We were really only there for Basic Instinct."
When asked if the R-rated thriller was the best cinematic experience of his life at the time, Gelt responded with a quick, "At that point, absolutely."
We all know and love the scene where the boys try chewing tobacco for the first time, later coming to regret the decision. It seems the real-life crew had their fair share of adventures. Unfortunately, not everybody was able to enjoy it.
Shane Obedzinski, who played Tommy Timmons, was left behind. "I missed it. I didn't go. I was the youngest, like 10. They were all a little older, so they got out [to see a movie]."
When asked if his older buddies let him have it after the fact, he offered, "Hell yeah. They were very happy to rub it in my face that I didn't get to go."
Friendships, Fans and a Classic Movie
Some might consider this a great baseball film or a coming-of-age tale. Two decades on, it's clear at the heart of it all it's really a buddy flick—a movie about a bunch of guys having fun and the comedy that ensues because of it.
At least, that's what seems to have resonated most with this cast of men who were so memorable as young sandlot ballplayers.
Obedzinski painted quite the picture of The Sandlot reunion in Salt Lake City.
"We went to Utah to do The Sandlot on the [actual] sandlot. That hit hardest. We walked onto the field...it was very emotional. We signed autographs for like nine hours, until like two in the morning. People were crying, they were just unbelievably happy to be able to see us...That's the best moment, maybe in my life."
Perhaps the movie ages so well because it doesn't force feed its wholesome nature or doesn't play the familiar themes with a heavy hand. It's just an honest look at something we can all relate to.
Evans noted: "That's what the movie's about. It's about stepping out of childhood. When Benny jumps that fence. That's the big metaphorical moment when he leaves childhood behind."
His job was really to let the kids be kids on the set. "It was always that I said to them: 'Don't act; be honest.' In other words, be you. Say these words like you would say them...They quickly got that. There wasn't any acting in it, so I think the honesty, the authenticity of it comes from its honesty."
After so many tours of MLB stadiums, countless interviews and items that have leaked throughout the years, there isn't a great deal fans of the movie would be shocked to hear.
Sure, it's depressing to find out the s'more scene mandated a good amount of spitting out of the delicious treats after each take. Leopardi asked daily to shoot the pool scene, and yes, Yeah-Yeah swelled up to gargantuan proportions—something York credits to a healthy diet and an hour in the gym everyday.
The one thing to take away from this meeting of actors who once played good friends is none of it was an act. They are all genuinely fond of one another.
Years later, the cast of The Sandlot is still savoring a great summer that produced one of the greatest baseball movies of all time.
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