Folks who take classes I teach in which we talk about it know that I critique the film The Sandlot for its representations of gender. The film makes the exclusion of women rather explicit, and the implications of that exclusion are all the more significant when we recognize that the film is typically characterized as a “family film.” In fact, my own DVD copy of the film says “Family Feature” on the front cover.
Still, as a baseball fan, the film has appeal because it captures the joy of playing sandlot baseball with a group of other kids. That joy is important to me because I spent a significant amount of my time as a kid doing exactly that. My brothers and I, along with a collection of other friends, would go to the local park in my hometown that had a number of baseball diamonds, and we would play baseball for hours.
Among that collection of other friends, the most consistent participant was Jason, a classmate of my youngest brother, Nate, who shared with Nate and me a passion for baseball – a passion borne out in our shared interest in collecting baseball cards and, of course, in playing baseball together. Indeed, “consistent” is not strong enough of a word to convey Jason’s participation in our baseball games. “Constant” works much better. I think only Nate and I participated more.
Jason passed away Friday at the age of 39. I don’t know the cause. I do know he had experienced some health issues recently, but I don’t know if they contributed to his death or not.
I can’t say I know Jason well any longer. We were connected on Facebook, and there was a little interaction there, but I really hadn’t seen him in a couple decades. I remember that he won my NCAA men’s basketball pool in 1993, and I have specific memory of giving him the money when he won. I remember him working at my grandfather’s drugstore for a while in the 1990s. I remember trading baseball cards with him in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But most of all, I remember him as an integral part of my sandlot experience.
The Sandlot is about remembering childhood. As we get older, that which makes up our childhood slowly recedes. Our favorite television shows go off the air. Buildings we knew make way for newer structures. Our friends and family pass on, and so eventually do we. When these people and things are gone, it makes the process of remembering the joys of childhood more difficult … or at least it makes that process take less concrete form. Sometimes the process happens before it should, and that’s the case with Jason. Still, even though less concrete, that which has passed on remains with us. Jason will always be an important part of my youth, and he will always figure prominently in my memory of that youth.