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'The Sandlot' director caps film reunion with proposal

Published July 22, 2013 11:52 pm

Celebration of made-in-Utah movie scores home run with a true love story.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Glendale • Filmed 20 years ago on an empty field in a westside Salt Lake City community, "The Sandlot" was a comedy, a drama, and, when a shivering Chauncey Leopardi — OK, Squints — made a move on everyone's favorite lifeguard, a teenage romance.

But on Saturday, "The Sandlot" got its turn as a true love story.

At a 20th anniversary celebration on the original filming site in Glendale, director David Mickey Evans, proposed to his girlfriend, Hollywood location manager Stacey McGillis.

On an evening the Utah Film Commission and the Glendale Community Council screened the 1993 classic in front of 1,500 people, Evans ended the dedication of the field — rebuilt to look like the original movie set — by calling McGillis to home plate, dropping to one knee and producing a ring. McGillis, who met Ellis on the set of "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective Jr.," said that while her boyfriend has a flair for the dramatic — he once took the canine star from one of the "Beethoven" movies to Bring Your Dad to School Day — he managed to catch her off guard.

"I told him if it was going to happen," McGillis said, "it better be special."

And for Evans, the 50-year-old director, writer and narrator of "The Sandlot," nothing is more special. On his upper left arm, he sports a "Sandlot" tattoo, and credits it for giving him his career. It remains his best-known film.

Although, there was no way of knowing that when he first came to this patch of dirt and grass in Glendale — which Leigh Von Der Esch, then the director of the Utah Film Commission, helped find from the governor's airplane.

"I don't think any of us, when we were playing basically on this field 21 years ago could have every know there would be 1,500 people here to watch us play baseball," said actor Patrick Renna, who played catcher Hamilton Porter and delivered the iconic lines, "You play ball like a girl!" and "You're killing me, Smalls!"

Evans and six members of the cast answered questions from the crowd at sandlot, which was transformed from the backyards of four homeowners back to the purpose for which it is best known.

Evans has spent the summer traveling across the country, showing the movie at major and minor league ballparks, including at Friday's Salt Lake Bees game.

"Nowhere does this movie mean as much to everyone, especially us, as it does right here in S.L.C.," Evans said.

Saturday night capped a weekend of events, which included four members of the Bees holding a clinic for neighborhood baseball players on the field. Friday at SpringMobile Ballpark, Bees players — professional ballplayers — were temporarily awed to meet the "kids" from The Sandlot.

Even McGillis grew up a fan of the movie and, she said, didn't realize Evans was the man behind it when they first worked together. She grew up with brothers and played boys' league baseball. After Evans proposed, they capped off the ritual by playing catch.

It only added to the sweet spectacle. Grown men wore Squints-styled glasses, some sported "You're killing me, Smalls!" T-shirts.

When film commission Director Marshall Moore first contacted the Bees about collaborating on the project, Brian Prutch, the Triple-A team's director of corporate sales, said they imagined a much smaller event and worried that it appealed to them because they were "baseball guys."

"I think we underestimated how many people loved the movie and how much it meant to people."

As he prepared to introduce Evans and the cast to a local fanbase that already knew them well, Moore stood on stage and began to quote another baseball movie, "Field of Dreams:" "If you build it — wait, wrong speech. But true today. True today."

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz