(ABC4) – For writer and director David Mickey Evans, no summer can compete with the summer of 1992, which he spent with a bunch of kids and some large dogs on a dusty baseball field in Salt Lake City.
“I mean it sounds cliché, but it’s not,” Evans told ABC4. “It was the greatest summer of my life.”
That was the summer in which Evans and an ensemble cast of youngsters filmed the timeless baseball movie, “The Sandlot,” which celebrated the 28th anniversary of its release in theaters on Wednesday.
“It was the greatest summer of their lives,” Evans continued, describing conversations he’s had with the actors he worked with on the movie. “We had nothing but fun. It wasn’t easy all the time…but still, the nine kids that had never met before, they got closer and closer.”
In Evans’ mind, that’s what makes “The Sandlot” so charming and able to stand the test of time; the kids in the movie all became best friends on set.
Marty York, who played the group’s repeating chatterbox, “Yeah-Yeah,” agrees that it was the summer of a lifetime.
“It was like summer camp,” York told ABC4. “We really played baseball all the time to brush up for the movie. We were going to the mall, the batting cages. A lot of the stuff that’s in the movie, we were actually doing that off-camera.”
Nights spent at the pool at the cast’s housing complex were especially memorable, recalled York.
Since the film’s release in 1993, the cast has remained close, especially as the movie has continued to age well. Many of the Sandlot boys travel together to tour the country, signing autographs and making appearances at Major League and Minor League stadiums. For the 20th and 25th anniversaries of the movie, many of the cast members, including York, returned to Utah to celebrate and make appearances.
The Sandlot’s story of friendship, childhood, and summertime, mixed in with a pitch of baseball was filmed almost entirely in Utah.
According to Evans, who wrote the script, the Beehive State turned out to be the ideal place for a movie set in 1962 San Fernando, California.
Pulling from his memories as a kid in the Los Angeles Basin with the San Gregorio Mountains to the east, Evans and his crew found that Salt Lake City’s look was very similar to that region of California. They also found local neighborhoods and buildings that matched the period of the movie. Besides, the financial benefits of filming in Utah sweetened the deal even more. It turned out to be a perfect fit.
“You’re killing me, Smalls!”– Hamilton Porter, catcher and jokester in “The Sandlot”, played by Patrick Renna
“We built nothing,” Evans explained. “We had some interiors inside some warehouse but everything else is an actual physical location. It was like the stars aligned.”
The story of how the actual sandlot was found is an interesting one. While scouting the area in a helicopter, the film’s producers found an open lot that served as a giant, shared backyard, tucked behind some houses in Salt Lake City’s Glendale neighborhood. Eventually, that property became the setting for many of the movie’s iconic baseball scenes.
That vacant lot still sits in Glendale, but it’s not as recognizable without the backstop, dugouts, and fencing that separated the boys from “The Beast.” Every few years though, Marshall Moore, former Director of the Utah Film Commission, arranges for a re-creation of the field to celebrate the movie’s anniversary, usually while working with the local Triple-A team, the Salt Lake Bees.
Other Utah locations that appeared in “The Sandlot” include Vincent Drug in Midvale, Valley Vista Park Community Pool in Ogden, and a city park in American Fork.
To Moore, an influential member of the Utah movie industry, “The Sandlot” is his favorite movie that was filmed in Utah. The reasons why it still resonates with so many, nearly 30 after its release, are many, according to him.
“The whole movie is a series of good feelings; about summer, about baseball, about a dog,” said Moore. “I think what it does is it evokes connectivity to a certain time in your life, or it’s just something you enjoy as pure entertainment. That’s really what it is, and baseball happens to be the mechanism.”