Fans of “The Sandlot,” the 1993 surprise smash directed by David Mickey Evans that has since become a cult favourite, nevertheless probably find themselves occasionally saying the catchphrase that inspired many clips: “You’re killing me, Smalls!” But the line—delivered by Patrick Renna, a still-slyly prolific former child star—is only one of several factors that, to this day, enable the valiant baseball movie to hold its place in moviegoers’ hearts among other nostalgic coming-of-age movies from the 1980s and 1990s. (See “The Craft,” “Now and Then,” and “Stand by Me.”)
The charming young protagonist of the movie, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, played by former teen idol Mike Vitar, was a significant factor in the movie’s popularity. Before emerging actors could benefit from social media, “The Sandlot” helped Vitar gain a sizable fan base and catapulted him into YA superstardom in a reasonably short period of time. A whole new generation of fans is curious in the guy who played the youngster who, for a brief while in the early 1990s, everyone wanted to be. Now, nearly three decades after its first debut, “The Sandlot” is winning over audiences once more on Hulu.
The ’90s poster boy
20th Century Studios Teen magazines like “Tiger Beat,” “Teen Beat,” and “Big Bopper” (aka “BOP”) were the go-to sources for geeking out over your favourite performer or actor in the pre-digital eras. The publications were a must-have for young celebrities because they included tear-out posters that fawning middle schoolers could paste on the walls of their bedrooms or closets.
A number of teen heartthrobs, including Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Jonathan Brandis, Eddie Furlong, Devon Sawa, Jared Leto, all three of the Lawrence Brothers, and, of course, “Sandlot” star Mike Vitar, had their careers launched during this era. Although some of the publications date back to the 1960s, the 1980s and 1990s were their heyday. Vitar, however, was more than just a handsome face with brilliant eyes, and he immediately discovered his calling when he was cast in a noteworthy role in the first direct sequel to Disney’s well-liked hockey hit, another renowned sports film.
Quack! Quack! Quack!
Disney decided to make the uplifting (and, crucially, co-ed) hockey film “The Mighty Ducks” into a trilogy after its 1992 release, and cast young actor Vitar as the (literally) unstoppable Luis Mendoza in both sequels. A full-fledged adolescent idol with just as much star power as his “Mighty Ducks” co-star, the pre-“Dawson’s Creek” Joshua Jackson, Vitar underwent a transformation in the “Mighty Ducks” sequels from the undersized, scrappy, but cool guy on your small squad. Vitar never went on to star in another major picture, in contrast to Jackson, whose steadfast acting career has faltered only momentarily and sporadically over the past thirty years.
Vitar’s career was more closely related to that of Marguerite Moreau, a fellow “Ducks” actress who played the series’ all-around badass Connie. However, Moreau is better known for playing Katie alongside Paul Rudd in the cult classic “Wet Hot American Summer.” (She successfully returned to the character in both the 2017 film “Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later” and the 2015 film “Wet Hot American Summer: First Days of Camp.”) But (again) unlike Moreau, who secured a steady stream of recurring roles in numerous television programmes (including “Parenthood” and “Grey’s Anatomy”), Vitar seldom even dabbled in TV before quitting acting for good in 1997.
He popped up in primetime, sort of
Mike Vitar had a small role in an episode of ABC’s hit police drama “NYPD Blue” after “D2,” but it appears that his return as Luis in “D3: The Mighty Ducks” would only net him one more part: Carlo Lunes in a CBS episode of “Chicago Hope.” Vitar’s transition from a prospective super star to a fleeting career in television may seem weird, but it turns out that his decision to leave the acting industry behind was just that—a decision. Vitar just switched careers, not because of some sad downward spiral or lack of aptitude, but rather because he left adolescent magazines and sports movies.
A 2014 interview revealed his “He’s a fire fighter now in LA,” Ducks co-star Jeffrey Nordling, who played coach Ted Orion in “D3,” told Time Magazine. fantastic man” Nordling continued by saying that he had remained in touch with Vitar following the completion of the shoot because the two actors “truly enjoyed baseball” and had later participated in a league for “four or five years.”
It appears that Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez was raised to be a passionate L.A. firefighter for baseball. Unfortunately, consciously stepping away from the spotlight doesn’t always mean it won’t follow you back.
The comeback kid
In 2015, Vitar was charged with assault after he and two other men assaulted and choked a guy who was handing out Halloween candy to youngsters. Neither Vitar nor Eric Carpenter, the other firefighter on his crew, were on duty at the time. According to Arthur Avazian, the third defendant’s attorney, the group believed the guy “presented a threat to youngsters in the neighbourhood by trying to pass out sweets against the will of the adults” (via NBC News). Though Vitar ultimately chose to plead out in order to avoid going to jail, the crime and its consequences have followed the former adolescent heartthrob, delaying his intention to gradually fade from public view.
The hot hockey player who later became a father of three most recently (if 2018 still qualifies) reconnected with other cast members of “The Sandlot” for David Terry Fine’s documentary, “Legends Never Die: The Sandlot Story,” which is streaming on YouTube TV. Putting baseball aside, Mike Vitar’s transition and biography have a certain air of mythology. After all, the actor enjoyed a rapid climb to prominence before leaving the business to become a firefighter and a family man. He was found quite by accident at the age of 12, while in line at a carnival (per IMDb). Thirty years after securing the career-defining role, his Benny Rodriguez character (though perhaps not Vitar himself just yet) is currently experiencing something of a comeback. (This time without Tiger Beat’s assistance; instead, streaming services.)
Being a binge-watcher himself, finding Content to write about comes naturally to Divesh. From Anime to Trending Netflix Series and Celebrity News, he covers every detail and always find the right sources for his research.