For any kid that ever played a game of neighborhood baseball, The Sandlot is a film sure to tug at a few of those nostalgic heartstrings. Released in 1993, The Sandlot travels back to the summer of 1962, to tell the tale of a group of young friends who shared more than a passing fondness for the great American pastime.
Scotty Smalls is a young boy whose family has just relocated to a suburban Los Angeles neighborhood. He soon learns that the kids in the area all hold an enormous passion for baseball – and if he is ever going to fit in, he better do the same. Things are rough at first, for when Scotty is asked to join in their regular game, his skills are quickly revealed to be sub-par. But while the other kids are quick to taunt, the team’s star player Benny Rodriguez decides to help the newcomer, coaching him until his abilities match the other players. Soon, Scotty earns the respect of his peers and becomes a valued member of the team.
In this neighborhood, there is one rule that these future sultans of swat always adhere to, which is to never hit the ball over the fence that surrounds the outfield. For what lurks dangerously on the other side is “the beast,” a ferocious and formidable canine. Unfortunately, one day Benny manages to literally knock the stuffing out of their only baseball. Eager to help, Scotty “borrows” another ball from his dad’s prized sports memorabilia collection, one with a very special autograph. And the minute the ball is put into play, it is Scotty who has the misfortune of belting it over the fence and into the beast’s lair.
The only hope of recovering this beloved ball lies in the swift feet of Benny Rodriguez, who manages to steal the ball and elude capture by the beast, who is hurt during the chase. The boys decide to notify the owner about their misdeeds, an elderly blind man named Mr. Mertle who has quite the baseball story to share with his new visitors. He also has a gift for Scotty, a very special baseball that just might keep the lad in his dad’s good graces.
With a cast of mainly unknown kids, and a wonderful cameo by James Earl Jones as Mr. Mertle, The Sandlot has become one of the more beloved baseball movies in recent years, perfectly capturing those days when a kid’s game was serious business, one that would lead to a lifetime of fond memories.
If The Sandlot conjures up your own recollections of summertime baseball fun, we welcome your own stories in our comments section, as we tip the cap to this thoroughly enjoyable film.