I have always been a sucker for sports movies.
I don't have a favorite. "Hoosiers." "Brian's Song." "Field of Dreams." "Remember the Titans." "*61." "The Rookie." "Friday Night Lights." All tied for first.
For purely sentimental reasons, my favorite may be "The Sandlot," the nostalgic, coming-of-age family movie about a group of boys from the same neighborhood who play baseball every day in a local sandlot.
"The Sandlot" movie was shown in the Mackin home about 2,000 times over the past 20 years.
The movie was a home run with families but a grand slam for dads like me who grew up in the 1960s playing sandlot baseball in our neighborhoods.
The movie had memorable, youth characters.Bennie "The Jet" Rodriguez, the star player. Scotty Smalls, new kid in the neighborhood and narrator of the movie. Wendy Peppercorn, swimming pool lifeguard and neighborhood beauty queen.
My favorite character was Hamilton Porter, the chubby, red-haired, sweaty, freckle-faced catcher. Why? There are childhood photos of me at about the same age as Porter in the movie. Red, curly hair. Chubby. Freckles. Sweaty. Yep, that's me. Ham Porter.
For the record, it was Ham Porter who said the movie's infamous line -- "You're killin' me, Smalls." After being asked by Porter if he wanted a s'more, Smalls replied several times with the question, "Some more what?" Frustrated, Porter finally replied, "You're killing me, Smalls."
"The Sandlot" movie turned 20 years old this year. To celebrate, the movie's director -- David Mickey Evans -- and a few of the actors are visiting baseball parks across the country and showing a special screening of the movie. They were in St. Louis on Thursday evening, June 13, for the Ballpark Founders Appreciation Night. I was lucky enough to get a few tickets. The Mackins didn't know what to expect. But we figured it was "The Sandlot" so it had to be good.
It was a memorable night.
On the drive to the ballpark, we learned that actor Patrick Renna, aka Ham Porter,was in town. We walked onto the Busch Stadium field and saw the grown-up "Porter" projected onto the outfield video board. We found him standing on the Cardinals dugout, answering questions about the movie. Afterward, we were able to get photos taken with "Porter." I was a little reluctant but my family insisted. Twenty years have passed. Wow. OK. I admit it. We could be related.
"Welcome to St. Louis," I told Porter.
"Thanks. Beautiful stadium you have here," he said to me.
That was it.
I'm not sure what I expected.
But after 20 years of chuckles, I figured it would be less awkward.
That evening, we were allowed to sit on Busch Stadium's outfield grass and watch "The Sandlot" on the giant video scoreboard. My wife and daughter sat on a blanket. But I sat on the right field grass for almost 90 minutes. I got up off the grass only once to get my photo taken next to the left field wall photo of Red Schoendienst and the Stan Musial memorial No. 6 logo.
It was a memorable night, watching "The Sandlot" under the stars, while sitting on the outfield grass in Busch Stadium, with the Gateway Arch in the background.
Free food and drinks.
And Ham Porter in the house.