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    I have to confess that I didn’t see “The Sandlot” until my early twenties. A group of friends invited me to a cookout one summer afternoon years ago and I was drafted into a game of kickball. I hadn’t played kickball since the fourth grade, but something about the smell of the grill and the balmy, warm air instilled me with confidence.

    I took my first kick. The dirt-dusted medicine ball bounced right into the arms of the other team. I was out. Slightly embarrassed that my lack of sports prowess had been revealed, I took my walk of shame to the back of the line. My friend Sam slung an arm around my shoulders.

    “If you were having fun, you would’ve caught that ball!” Sam grinned.

    “Caught the ball? I was trying to kick it,” I said.

    “Come on. From ‘The Sandlot’?” He gave me a shake.

    “I haven’t seen that,” I said.

    I could almost hear the tires squealing in his head. His arm dropped off my shoulders. “You haven’t seen ‘The Sandlot’?”

    The word spread through the teams quickly and at least every person, some I didn’t even know, explained me in great depth why I wouldn’t be complete until I saw this film.

    The game progressed as the sun dipped below the rooftops.

    “You missed that kick! You’re killin’ me, Smalls!” someone would shout.

    “I’m the Great Bambino!”

    “The kid is an L7 weenie!”


    It’s hard to miss the Louisville Slugger Museum. The giant baseball bat leaning against Hillerich & Bradsby Co. peeks above rooftops, even a block away. When I arrive at the museum, people filter in and out, mini souvenir bats in tow, stopping to pose next to the big one.

    It’s easy to spot the folks who came for the opening of the “Legends Never Die: 25 Years of The Sandlot” mini-exhibit May 19. They sport vintage tee shirts with well-known quotes and the freckled-faced kids from the film.

    Museum employees in baseball tees with the iconic character Ham next to the words “You’re killin’ me, Smalls” direct patrons past poster-size photos of the cast from the ’90s. The sunny, baby faces of Ham, Squints, Yeah-Yeah, Repeat, Kenny, Bertram, Timmy, Smalls and every adolescent girl’s crush, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, hang on the brick walls.

    The exhibit includes giant baseball cards based on characters from the film.

    Across from the exhibit are the batting cages, and in the middle, 5-year-old Matthew Kurtz poses on a giant glove and ball statue. He assumes the stance of a batter about to hit a home run with a giant banner of The Beast (if you haven’t seen the film, it’s the “fearsome” English Mastiff who lives in the yard next to the sandlot), behind him.

    Kurtz’s family made the drive to Louisville from Fleetwood, Pennsylvania to visit his grandparents. For them, “The Sandlot” is inter-generational.

    “Our kids watched it, now our grandkids watch it,” Kurtz’s grandmother, Rita Reed, says as she smiles at her grandchildren playing.

    A cut-out of Mr. Mertle, The Beast’s owner, watches from the window as museum-goers approach an exhibit fashioned to look like his house. The interior looks like his living room, with details like the pea soup-colored wallpaper decorated with pennants from the Cincinnati Reds and the White Sox.

    The Champs’ 1958 song “Tequila” plays garbled over speakers and the movie trailer loops on a vintage television set.

    Visitors talk about their favorite parts of the movie as they circle the room, checking out the original script, Louisville Slugger bats used in the film, the taped cereal box periscope, Squint’s glasses, the baseball signed by Babe Ruth himself and more.

    Signed baseballs from the exhibit.

    I meet Nolan, a man visiting with his family, who are all decked out head to toe in baseball gear.

    Nolan’s family recalls when he was three and saw the film for the first time. He became obsessed, refusing to wear anything besides jeans and converse sneakers. He says his favorite way the gang tried to get out of “the biggest pickle” was the kid crane.

    Actor Shane Obedzinski, director David Evans and props master Terry Haskell.

    An elevator ride up and away from the crowds, some lucky fans and museum staff get the opportunity to meet movie director David M. Evans, props master Terry Haskell and Shane Obedzinski, who played Tommy “Repeat” Timmons in the film. Evans also narrated and co-wrote the film. Haskell supplied the props on display downstairs.

    The trio greet fans not much younger than the cast members who starred in the movie. No matter the age of the person they take a photo with in front of “The Sandlot” backdrop, each is met with equal enthusiasm.

    It’s the trio’s first time in Louisville, and for them, the city is baseball.

    “I think it’s the best ‘Sandlot’ tribute I have ever seen,” Evans says in the unmistakable voice with which he narrated the film. “And there’s been tons.”

    Obedzinski calls the experience humbling and says he’s speechless.

    Evans’ favorite exhibit pieces are the Babe Ruth baseball and the Yankees baseball. He expected a call to go to set because of how well everything was preserved. For that he commends Haskell.

    “It brought a smile to my face,” Haskell, now retired, says about collecting the materials. “It was like digging up an old friend.”

    In the summer of 1962, Haskell was 10, one of six brothers, and they had a real sandlot. Working on the film was a trip back to his youth.

    “That’s what we did in the summertime. We played baseball,” he remembers.

    Obedzinski thinks the film has resonated for 25 years because of its relatability. He loves that the film has spanned three generations and formed connections throughout.

    “Playing outside is a little different now than it was then, but you can still relate to it. The magic of it. It’s baseball too, on top of it. When you put those two things together, it’s good friendship with a good solid storyline,” Obedzinski says.

    “And baseball!” Evans adds.

    “That’s America. How it should be,” Obedzinski says. 

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