Sandlot Reunion

Each decade has a defining film for childhood audiences. In the ‘90s, there was a surge of children’s sports movies like The Mighty Ducks, Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield, and Little Giants. However, none withstood the test of time quite like the archetypal coming-of-age story The Sandlot.  Written and directed by David Mickey Evans, the film follows a group of young boys in the summer of 1962 who are brought together by their love of baseball and fear of one neighborhood dog known as “The Beast”. Filled with heartfelt moments of friendship and hilarious antics that can only occur during the slow, sweaty days of summer, The Sandlot is one of the best films of the ‘90s and a childhood favorite for many who grew up in that decade.

For their last Rolling Roadshow of 2019, Alamo Drafhouse and Austin Food & Wine Alliance hosted a screening of the lovable film with cast members Tom Guiry (Smalls), Chauncey Leopardi (Squints), Patrick Renna (Ham) and even The Beast himself in attendance. Located on the vast property of Treaty Oak Distilling out in the Texas hill country, sounds from the ‘50s and ‘60s were blaring through the autumn air before guests even entered the gates. Songs like Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues”, the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” and  Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” played as the festivities began. Moviegoers could treat themselves to any number of baseball stadium staples like nachos, hot dogs, and crackerjacks. There was even a designated firepit to make ‘smores. And if you’re not a complete L7 weenie, then you know how delicious those snacks are.

There was a designated trailer where guests could purchase movie memorabilia as well as meet the trio of cast members. “Hercules” aka The Beast was also close-by sporting a jersey and ready for pets while producing ample amounts of his signature slobber. One of the most adorable attractions of the event was the amateur baseball game. Two teams were set up to where kids could play with the cast. Once up to bat, Patrick Renna (Ham) pointed to the outfield in true Babe Ruth fashion and the kids went wild. For those posted up in their lawn chairs, guests could enjoy a baseball themed pre-show that consisted of vintage television commercials featuring Roger Maris’ Action Baseball game and Johnny Bench’s Gillette razor commercial from 1971. Other pre-show highlights included live recordings of The Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and Booker T. And The M.G.’s “Green Onions”. There were also several familiar sports movie trailers like The Bad News Bears and The Big Green (a locally filmed soccer movie also starring Patrick Renna).

(All photos come to us courtesy of Heather Leah Kennedy.)

Before the screening started, Alamo’s Henri Mazzi conducted what quite possibly the cutest Q&A to date. Aside from a handful of adults, mostly kids lined up to ask the cast their most burning questions like “what was your favorite scene”, “what was your least favorite scene”, “did y’all really chew tobacco before going on the rollercoaster”, and “what do you love about Austin”?  Leopardi, of course, chose his famous scene of kissing Wendy Peffercorn as his favorite while Guiry enjoyed filming the night game on the 4th of July.

Some fun facts that came out of the Q&A were that Guiry is a black belt who entertained the crew with his moves on set; three dogs were used to play Hercules; the chewing tobacco the boys took at the carnival was a mixture of beef jerky and liquorice; and they did have an original ball signed by Babe Ruth on set. When asked if the guys had anything else they wanted to share or think the audience should know before the movie started, Patrick Renna recalled the scene where he was insulting their rival team. Renna stated that in the movie, “you play ball like a girl” was in fact a compliment, and not an insult. The crowd cheered and a few of the little girls sitting near me in torn jeans and t-shirts began jumping up and down with excitement. It was this sweet and inclusive moment that finally kicked off the screening.

The Sandlot is still an iconic and wholesome film that plays well today. It’s an original screenplay void of bombast that brings audiences back to the days of playing outside with friends, having to be home before the street lights come on, and chatting with your buddies occurred in the dugout or at the clubhouse instead of over group text. It’s a staple of ‘90s filmography and perfect film to screen before the holidays begin. A singular film about friendship and sportsmanship, The Sandlot is one cinematic legend that truly will never die.

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