"The Sandlot" Anniversary Tour comes to Classic Park
The stories that touch the heart are the ones that come from the heart. “The Sandlot” is clearly a film about baseball set in the 1960s, but its inspiration derived from a real-life experience.
David Evans directed and narrated “The Sandlot” 20 years ago. The iconic film centers on a young boy seeking friendship, which he eventually finds in a group of boys who spend their summer playing baseball and occasionally getting into trouble.
Evans is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the film with a tour of several ballparks, where the film is being shown. Included in this tour is Classic Park, home of the Lake County Captains.
The event will be hosted by Evans on Friday, July 12 starting at 5:30 p.m. Fans will have the opportunity to meet with Evans, who will be signing autographs on the main concourse. The stop is one of about 25 on the anniversary tour, which started at Werner Park in Omaha and is scheduled to continue into October.
Evans said the event has exceeded expectations so far, and that the turnout has produced a vast range of fans.
“It’s everybody,” Evans said. “Literally from infants to octogenarians.”
Evans said one fan bought 16 copies of the special edition DVD to be autographed and handed down from children to great grandchildren. The movie has become one of the most iconic baseball films of all time, something which Evans had hoped for, but not assumed.
“All you can do while you’re making the movie is do your job,” he explained. “We all knew we were doing the job when we were making the movie because it was a ton of fun when we were doing it and things worked the way they were supposed to work when they were supposed to work.”
The movie made an impact when it first appeared in theaters in 1993, and remains relevant to date. Evans noted that the film would have been even more profitable in the current age.
“Look at the numbers today, that movie in its initial theatrical release would have made between $120-150 million because it was made in a $40 million age," he said. "More than half those tickets were $4 because they were children’s tickets. It was a monumental box office success by any stretch of the imagination.”
According to Evans, the true success of the film became evident post-theater.
“When they sent millions of copies into the rental market, I knew they were doing it for a reason,” he said. “When the DVD thing hit, the dam busted and it just went crazy. Every year, it sells more than it did before. It’s purchased by people who either want another copy of it, but mostly who give it as gifts to give down to the next generation coming up.”
As the generations continue to appreciate the film, its resonance and messages also remain.
“It’s a movie about friendship,” he said. “It’s about including people. And I think that’s one of the big reasons that it stands the test of time, because it has an important message.”
The message wasn’t the source of inspiration for “The Sandlot”, though. Evans used experience from his personal life to concoct Smalls, Hercules and Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez. The central character of the movie, Smalls, is a reflection of Evans and his younger brother, who were also left out by the neighborhood baseball group as children.
“In those days when I was a kid, it was in the 70’s not the 60’s, and if you had a baseball, you had a baseball," he said. "Today, a kid’s got a bucket of baseballs.”
One day, the group of boys lost a ball over a brick wall and sent Evans’ brother to retrieve it.
“He went and got the ball and the dog just chewed his leg up pretty bad and they all laughed at him,” Evans recalled. “So that was a little incident where I went, ‘Oh, I’ve got it all. I’ll turn those punks into heroes and then they’ve got to work as a team to get this ball back.’ So that was the little inciting notion from which the entire story came.”
Those “punks” resulted in a baseball film unique to its own genre, as the friendship between Smalls, Squints and the remainder of the gang is unlike any other.
“Of all the baseball movies ever made, it might be the only one that’s about something like that,” Evans said. “Most baseball movies are about baseball. Some of those movies are good, but take any of those, and did any of them go on a 20th anniversary tour?”
None of the other movies have had the same influence as “The Sandlot” either. That said, few things compare to a classic baseball film. Evans believes in America’s past time, having grown up in southern California during the days when Garvey, Koufax and Drysdale graced the diamond.
“I think baseball is such an elegant game,” Evans said. “I think it’s the best game on earth… It really is America’s religion.”
“The Sandlot” has developed a religious following of its own over the past 20 years. In a world where baseball forms the bond between friends, audiences of all ages have become enthralled by nine boys who spend their summer mimicking the Great Bambino and lusting after Wendy Peffercorn.
With its comical moments and memorable quotes , it’s become one of America’s most prominent baseball films. 20 years ago, the film captured theater audiences. Today, it’s passed down among generations so that young baseball fans will learn its valuable lessons and Smalls will still be “killing” us all.
David Evans runs a blog where he chronicles his trip from ballpark to ballpark during “The Sandlot” 20th Anniversary Tour. You can read it at: davidmickeyevansblog.blogspot.com. Fans can meet him Friday night at Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio and join him to watch “The Sandlot” on the scoreboard.
“It’s the best possible place to watch ‘The Sandlot’ in its natural habitat,” Evans noted.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.