Sandlot Memories

Ashton Thompson had completed a school project months before meeting writer/director David Mickey Evans. Ashton loves the movie and was excited to meet David and get him to sign his artwork.

Released in 1993 by 20th Century Fox, “The Sandlot,” written, directed, and narrated by David Mickey Evans, is the kind of coming of age film about boys playing baseball that is timeless.

It’s continuing popularity was obvious Nov. 20 as the Brannon Center in New Smyrna Beach was expected to have 100 people attend a special showing of the movie and 250 people showed up. Among those present was Mr. Evans, who has been a New Smyrna Beach resident for several years.

Mr. Evans and his brother, Scott, visiting from California, were gracious speakers who answered any questions thrown at them and autographed posters and books for anyone who wanted one.

It was Scott’s true-life adventure as a child that inspired his brother years later to write the story for the movie.

“Forty-six years ago when I was eight years old, we moved into a neighborhood,” Scott Evans said. “We were told to get out of the house and go make some friends. I found a group of kids playing baseball down the street. I watched someone pitch a ball and I watched someone hit a ball. And I watched that ball go over a block wall six feet high. I said ‘I’ll get it.’

“All these kids warned me against it (due to a big dog in the yard), but they boosted me up over the wall,” he said. “When I went over the fence, I didn’t have anybody to help me get back over the fence. I had to run for my life and find a way out. People seem to be excited about a decision I made 46 years ago, and then 26 years ago he made a decision to write this movie.”

Scott Evans still has a scar from the shepherd-Doberman mix named Hercules (same as the dog’s name in the movie) that bit him. The brothers are still in touch with the original actors.

It took 4-6 months to cast the movie, with 10,000 children vying for parts in it, David Evans said. The movie was filmed in Salt Lake City. Five different English mastiffs were used to portray the dog.

“Driving home on the 405 Freeway (in California), the incident when he went over that backyard fence and got bit came into my head and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a movie.' That was it. Just a kid, going over a fence to get a baseball and there’s a big bad dog back there. Sometimes that’s all you need. Those characters that I wrote, I created them, they are all very special to me.”

He quoted from “Tom Sawyer,” however, saying “Dear Reader. None of these boys is any boy I knew. All of these boys is every boy I knew. So that’s kind of like 'The Sandlot.'

“My favorite scene to watch in the movie is the nighttime baseball game in the movie with the fireworks. I knew I needed to make a scene and make that scene just say America. 2018 was the 25th anniversary of Sandlot, so Fox, their marketing and PR department, sent me and the cast members for the entire year all over the United States and Canada to every single baseball park and a lot of Triple A parks to show the movie. Every place we went to, we set an attendance record for major league baseball at that place. June 16, 2018, at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers were playing the Giants, which was great because that’s who they beat at the end of 'The Sandlot.' They actually won that game as well. They showed 'The Sandlot' and 80,000 people showed up. That is the most people that have ever showed up at any baseball game in major league baseball history.”

Other film credits for Director Evans include “Radio Flyer,” “First Kid,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” “Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective,” “Beethoven’s 3rd,” and “Beethoven’s 4th.” “The Sandlot 2,” which he also directed, he said is the number one most successful direct to DVD family film of all time, including today. The original sandlot still exists and 200,000 tourists visit it each year from all over the world. Director Evans said he wrote a prequel to “The Sandlot,' “which will be better.” He also has six or seven other pictures he has been tasked to direct, three or four of which he has written.

He moved to New Smyrna Beach after doing a picture in Orlando in 2007 and met his wife, Stacey, who spent a lot of time in New Smyrna Beach summers while growing up. She brought him to New Smyrna to show him the beach and he said, “I’m never leaving.”

Thomas Knight came from Daytona Beach to see the movie and meet the director.

“I think it’s wonderful he’s involved with the community,” Mr. Knight said. “I kept seeing glimpses of me as a child like when they were making the different contraptions to retrieve the ball. I was reliving a lot of my childhood. It was fantastic. So great to be here.”

Zach Keefer, 18, of New Smyrna Beach had seen the movie before coming to the special showing.

“It was an iconic movie growing up,” Mr. Keefer said. “It was cool to see all the time and effort he put into the movie. Just to see him and his brother and their relationship is cool to see that because going up to my grandparents, my grandpa always played baseball so we would always watch that movie with him.”

Scott Evans is well-known in his own right. He is working on the creation of a new television series based on a book he wrote. He has also written textbooks for prisons and gives talks about “jumping that fence in life because what’s on the other side, you never know.” He does a lot of work in state and federal prisons, mostly west of the Rockies.

The event was coordinated by Cathy Rader, a local author and photographer, and sponsored by Anders and Anders Financial Group. Refreshments were served and several nonprofit youth related groups were in attendance.

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