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'Sandlot' baseball returns to Salt Lake City

Published: Saturday, July 20 2013 7:31 p.m. MDT

From left, cast members from "The Sandlot" Chauncey Leopardi, Patrick Renna, Marty York, Victor DiMattia and Shane Obedzinski pose for a photo on the field where they filmed the movie in Salt Lake City on Saturday, July 20, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — As far as David Mickey Evans is concerned, Utah hit one out of the park in commemorating the 20th anniversary of “The Sandlot.”

Two days of celebration began at Friday’s Salt Lake Bees game and concluded with a Saturday night screening of the 1993 movie at the sandlot where it was filmed in Glendale, included the dedication of a plaque paying tribute to it.

Evans, who wrote, directed and narrated the film, acknowledged that the latter was especially meaningful.

“I’m gushing. I’m out of my skull,” he said. “It’s absolutely overwhelming and off the charts.”

So much so, Evans joked, that he might tell the Academy Awards to keep its Oscar if his name ever followed an “And the winner is” announcement because he has a monument.

“I have a historical marker and I don’t know how many other films have that. Can’t be many,” Evans said. “If that isn’t the finest praise an artist or a filmmaker can get, I certainly don’t know what is. It’s incredible.”

Marshall Moore, executive director of the Utah Film Commission, confirmed it’s the first historical plaque the organization has issued. Although it was dedicated and presented to Evans, a final location for the marker (sponsored by the Bees and Dick’s Sporting Goods) has yet to be determined. It could be placed on land near the movie location at approximately 1200 South and Navajo Street, or perhaps inside the soon-to-be-built Glendale Library.

The metal plaque features a picture of the young baseball players in the cast and a photo of the sandlot. The inscription includes the following: “This site served as the 1960s-style baseball field featured in the film ‘The Sandlot.’ Following an extensive search, filmmakers selected the location in Glendale Park, Salt Lake City, UT, to serve as ‘their own little baseball kingdom.’ With assistance from the Utah Film Commission, David Mickey Evans (creator/director/narrator) and Cathleen Summers (producer) chose the site as the primary location for one of the greatest baseball movies of all time.”

The field, which sits on private property, proved to be the perfect place for Evans.

“I literally walked into a three-dimensional representation of my own mind. I about fainted,” he recalled. “It was incredible. I just sat there, turning around looking at everything for hours.”

Coming back 20 years later, Evans said, was very similar. Knowing what happened then and what became of everything, he added, made the return visit a bit overwhelming and emotional.

Before the homecoming, the field was cleared and a backstop and dugout were built to match those of the movie set. The project came together when the Utah Film Commission and Glendale Community Council joined forces.

Moore said the genesis of everything began in 2002 when he visited Iowa’s famed “Field of Dreams.” It planted a seed in his mind.

“I thought this is really cool. I got to play on it a little bit and I was thinking what in Utah do we have that is like this ‘Field of Dreams,’ Moore said. “Of course, my other favorite baseball movie is ‘The Sandlot.’ ”

Jay Ingleby of the Glendale Community Council learned about Moore’s desire to do something about the latter in a 2010 media report. Ingleby contacted Moore soon thereafter and things got rolling.

Ingleby said that the celebration, which included a youth clinic with the Bees on Saturday morning and a carnival in the afternoon, will benefit a community he has lived in since 1954. He said that folks in Glendale should be proud that the movie was filmed there.

“We wanted to do something that would be positive, and that’s what this is today,” Ingleby said, adding that Glendale has received a lot of bad press over the years because of incidents like drive-by shootings and other criminal activity.

On Saturday, Devin Barkers was busy making final preparations for “The Sandlot” festivities. He was sweeping and cleaning up the only major access to the field — the driveway of his recently purchased home.

“It’s cool, but it’s definitely stressful,” he said.

More than 1,300 people were expected at the showing of the film. One of Barkers’ co-workers stopped by the house and opined: “I don’t always buy a house, but when I do I make sure it’s an old movie set.”

All joking aside, however, there was something special about it.

“While we were making the film, all of the elements kept clicking and coming together,” said Evans, who explained that "the right actors were delivering lines the right way, pieces of the film were getting done and schedules were kept; and the kids were being funny and the crew was laughing.”

It all worked out. The film drew a standing ovation at its first screening and went on to gross approximately $40 million despite an April release and limited promotion. Consistent video and DVD sales followed, indicating growing popularity and staying power.

“People of all ages love the movie,” said Marty York, who played the role of “Yeah-Yeah” in the film. “They pass it on to their kids.”

York was one of six cast members in Utah for this weekend’s celebration. The others included Patrick Renna (“Ham”), Victor Dimmattia (“Timmy”), Shane Obedzinski (“Repeat”), Daniel Zacapa (“police chief”) and Chauncey Leopardi (“Squints”).

“Coming back to Utah is awesome. I haven’t been here in 20 years. The last time I stepped in this state I was filming ‘The Sandlot,’ ” York said. “I do remember the heat. It is very hot here. But, yeah, it’s just cool to be here back in Utah.”

The cast participated in ceremonies both nights — Friday at Spring Mobile Ballpark and Saturday at the old movie set.

“It’s been awesome coming back here. It’s a great city,” said Renna, who also filmed a 1997 movie “Address Unknown” in Salt Lake City. “I have a lot of good memories of Utah.”

Having a prominent role in “The Sandlot,” though, has proven to be especially rewarding for the 34-year-old.

“It’s very cool. It’s an honor to be part of,” Renna said. “I think it’s an actor and filmmaker’s dream to be in a movie like this. So it’s great.”

As for the film’s lasting impact on fans, Renna isn’t sure such things can be predicted — perhaps not even “Hamilton Porter” could call his shot on this one.

“I don’t think that you know that it’s going to be that important to people and that much a part of everyone’s life,” Renna said. “When we were doing it we knew that it wasn’t awful. But I don’t think that you could ever dream — from any movie — that it’s going to turn out like this. You don’t go in having those expectations.”

The movie has proven to be so popular that it is being showcased on a national tour to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

“It has been a remarkable summer — if not one of the best summers of my life,” Evans said.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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