In the early '90s, nine young boys spent the summer playing baseball, swimming at the neighborhood pool, and discussing The Great Bambino, all while filming "The Sandlot." April 7 marks the 20th anniversary of the film, a cult classic about boys playing baseball at their local sandlot and navigating the perils of growing up — wooing the local lifeguard, Wendy Peffercorn (Marley Shelton), surviving brushes with the oversized dog The Beast, and learning that chewing tobacco and carnival rides definitely do not mix.
Released in 1993, "The Sandlot" was led by a young Tom Guiry, who played the main character Scotty Smalls. Smalls (who is the target of the film's most memorable quote, "You're killing me, Smalls") is the new kid in town, struggling to fit in until Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez takes him under his wing and teaches him baseball.
In celebration of the film's 20th anniversary, HuffPost Entertainment spoke to Guiry over the phone from his home in New Jersey. "It's pretty cool, I never thought that I would be promoting this movie 20 years later," Guiry said. "It's actually really cool. I was very surprised."
The now 31-year-old actor has nabbed recent roles in films such as "The Fitzgerald Family Christmas" with Ed Burns, and has made appearances in television shows including "Law & Order" and "CSI: Miami." The self-proclaimed Yankees fan was on "Daddy duty" at the time of the interview, putting "Ice Age" on the the television to occupy his children while he spoke about Smalls, baseball, and being the nerdy kid.
You were very young at the time of the movie, how did you come into the role?
I was 11 when I made it. I was from New York, in the Bronx. My family, we moved to New Jersey, and when we moved down here, they didn't have the classes that I was taking in New York for being shy and such - those special after-school classes. So I wanted to be a part of theater. Just so happens I tried out for 'A Christmas Carol,' and when I went there and auditioned for it, I got that part... Tiny Tim, or whatever. My agent saw me in the play, I still have her to this day. I got into the agency and I think "Sandlot" was like my sixth or seventh audition. It's a lot of luck, that's what it is. I've come to learn that you can be very, very talented, but if you're not at the right place at the right time... It's a lot of luck.
At such a young age, did your parents have any misgivings about having you do the film?
They weren't sure if they wanted to let me do it because originally I didn't get hired for the part. They hired somebody else -- it was neck-and-neck. I didn't get it, so I came back home, I was really kind of down, and I don't think I would've pursued acting. It didn't work out with the kid they were using and they called me back and again they screen-tested me. If I didn't get it, I probably would've done something else. Luckily enough, I did. I got the role and it was a great time. It was probably one of the best experiences of my life.
Do you know who they originally had for the part?
I don't like dropping names (laughs). I don't want to be that guy.
Well I will say I am glad it was you. Tell me a little bit about the film's shooting - did you get along well with the other guys?
We all really got along. Of course there was the occasional, you know, fights amongst kids, but we all really got along really well. I remember everyone being really cool. We were always laughing, and it was so much fun. We'd just have so much fun cause with kids that age it was like going to summer camp. We had a treehouse to play in, we had a big dirt lot, we're playing baseball. In the other scenes, we had to swim and go on carnival rides. It wasn't too bad of a deal. Actually it was really cool. Even the set itself is just fun to be around - we could toss the ball around, hit the ball, go and hang around in the treehouse - I loved that treehouse. It was a blast.
Do you have any contact with the other guys at all?
I was the only East Coast guy, except for Shane [Obedzinski, who played Tommy Timmons] who's in Florida. So all the other guys were West Coast. So, we lost contact over the years.
Were they hanging out without you?
Yeah, I think they were! I'm the nerdy kid, never got to hang out with them.
So aside from this conversation, does "The Sandlot" still follow you? Do you get people coming up to you and saying, "You're killing me, Smalls" and recognizing you?
I work in a hospital as a patient transporter to make ends meet for my three kids. I think about four or five times a day, I have someone say that to me. Where I work is the town I grew up in, I'm more recognized here than in other places. But, a lot of my friends call me Smalls, I go by it. I've come to kind of embrace it. If you can't beat 'em, just join 'em, you know?
What do you think it is about the movie that has endured these twenty years? Why are people still connecting with it and still watching it?
I think what it does is it brings people back to a time in their lives that it was fun and kind of innocent. They didn't have to worry about bills and work. It was a carefree time of everyone's life. It's fun to watch people reminisce about it - plus, baseball. That's what's great about baseball, some people are exceptional at the game, but still, even people that aren't very athletic like, me - I played Little League! It's one of those games in sports where even if you're not the greatest, you can still play.
Were you given the chance to pick the bat back up for the sequel? What are your thoughts on the follow-up?
David Mickey Evans, who I owe a lot to, for tapping me and for writing such a great script and directing a great movie - it was my first thing I've ever really done on film. I was the lead in it so he really gave me a shot there. So he called me up about the sequel, and wanted to know if I could sign off on it because they use a clip from the first one in the second one. I said, "Well okay, yeah," and then I didn't see it until I got a residual check in the mail. I said, "Alright, I need to go see this movie. I'm getting paid for a movie I wasn't even in. So I checked it out and I liked it. I thought it was cool. What I thought was really cool is I was like, "Oh wow, it was the same set." It was really cool because I thought that set would've been like, a condominium complex by now. I mean, they redid it, and they redid it very well. It was fun to check out those kids maybe having some of the similar memories that I had.
You do have little kids, have they seen the movie?
I have a 13-year-old, he's my oldest boy. He saw it when he started playing little league. He's half-Hawaiian so he's telling his friends, "That's my Dad," and they don't believe him. The kids were giving him a hard time, they didn't believe him, so I had to show them. They were like, "Oh it is Smalls!" and I was like, "That's really cool." It was funny. My son loved it. I have a two-year-old boy and a three-month-old little girl, but I don't know if he's ready yet. I was talking to my wife about it, and I was thinking about not telling him and just putting it on when he's around like six or five, to see his reaction. I want to see if he notices.