MINNEAPOLIS — Professional athletes are rarely star struck, so it was quite the scene Friday as Minnesota Twins players clamored to get their pictures taken with two of the most iconic characters from one of the most iconic baseball movies.
Patrick Renna and Chauncey Leopardi, who played Hamilton “Ham” Porter and Michael “Squints” Palledorous in the 1993 film The Sandlot, were at Target Field on Friday as part of a nationwide tour that celebrates the movie’s 20-year anniversary. As Twins players came off the field for batting practice, they had to snap pictures and post them to Twitter or Instagram with the two actors.
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After all, this movie was a big part of many of their childhoods, so it was understandable when they acted like kids again upon the site of Ham and Squints.
“It’s to the point where I’m a little bit older than most of the players,” said Leopardi, 31. “So it’s cool that they kind of grew up with it so when I do meet major league players, as happy as I am to meet them, it’s mutual.”
Leopardi played the part of Squints, the bespectacled youngster who had an infatuation with the lifeguard, Wendy Peffercorn. So much so that he pretended to drown in the local pool in order to land a smooch from the lifeguard as she tried to save his life.
Renna, 34, became well known for his role as Ham, the smack-talking catcher with numerous one-liners. The Boston native just happened to be at Target Field when his Red Sox were in town — and he even took pictures with David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.
“I love baseball,” Renna said. “I grew up playing a lot of baseball and we used to play stickball back where I’m from. You’d just get the stick and the tennis ball and play it in the fenced-in area. So we played a lot of that.”
Those same memories of playing makeshift games as a kid is one of the reasons why The Sandlot has held up for 20 years and remains a classic and one reason why Twins players connected with the movie.
Yes, it’s about baseball, but it’s about much more.
“Honestly, that’s kind of what the sport of baseball is about. It’s about teamwork and teammates,” Renna said. “But there’s something more to baseball than, in my opinion, any other sport. Even coming and watching a baseball game, the experience. I think that’s why Sandlot has stood the test of time so well because it’s about so much more. It’s not just your typical sports movie.”
Renna, Leopardi and director David Mickey Evans will be in Minneapolis all weekend to celebrate the movie’s anniversary. They soaked up the typical baseball sights and sounds of Target Field on Friday before preparing for some different sights and sounds on Sunday. After the series finale Sunday between Boston and Minnesota, The Sandlot will be played 57′-by-101′ video board in left field and air on FOX Sports North.
Renna and Leopardi have seen the movie played plenty of times over the last 20 years, but nothing like they’ll see it on Sunday at Target Field.
“It’s so amazing. Look at it,” Leopardi said, glancing up at the video board. “It’s a great field. … This is the best baseball field I’ve ever been to.”
This weekend has served as a reunion of sorts for the actors and Evans. While Leopardi and Renna acted in three total films together, they hadn’t seen each other in about a decade. Renna and Evans went even longer before reconnecting: they last saw each other during the film’s premiere 20 years ago.
“It’s been a while,” Evans admitted. “I get to hang out with them. It was lump in the throat time. We’ve kept in touch a little bit and keep tabs on each other”
Added Renna: “Seeing these guys, it’s like we were never apart.”
As they rehashed old stories and reminisced about the making of The Sandlot, it was as if no time had passed. Renna still looks very similar to his character in the movie and, as a result, gets approached by fans who still love to hear him say, “You’re killing me, Smalls!” Such was the case Friday, as a group of girls waited behind the Twins’ dugout and laughed when they heard him quip the phrase. Leopardi isn’t quite as recognizable, but put the black-rimmed glasses on him and you’d see the same kid who once had a crush on the lifeguard.
Both Renna and Leopardi have continued to act and have other projects in the works. Leopardi is in a film called Coldwater that is making the round at film festivals, while Renna is in pre-production for his first film as a producer. Evans, too, continues to make movies.
It’s safe to say, though, that none of the three will ever be part of another film like The Sandlot.
“As they’re talking about different stuff, it brings back new, fresh memories that you just forget about,” Leopardi said. “And as they bring up something, you’re like, ‘Oh, shoot, I remember that.’ And you kind of go back into that time. It’s really cool.”