As someone who grew up in the ‘90s, there are three big takeaways from my adolescence no one can ever convince me are wrong. First, if there’s a Tamagotchi heaven, I filled half of it (#RIP, little buddies). Second, a good mix CD can get you through any life crisis. And finally, The Sandlot is one of the greatest movies ever made. If you ask anyone about the last — lit-er-ally anyone — who came of age in that decade, they’ll tell you the same. And, although it seems impossible (we’re all still teenagers, right?), The Sandlot turns 30 this year.
So, when I got the chance to chat with Patrick Renna — aka none other than Hamilton “Ham” Porter — there could only be one answer: absolutely.
The movie, which came out in 1993, takes place during the summer of 1962, shortly after fifth-grader Scott Smalls moves to the San Fernando Valley. There, he meets a group of boys whose religion is baseball. Their altar? The neighborhood sandlot.
Renna’s Ham was the team catcher, an expert on making s’mores, and in general, the shit-talking comedic relief we all loved. Today, he’s still acting — but he’s also a husband, a dad, and the creator of Hambino Athletics, a newly launched athleisure brand for men, women, and kids inspired by (you guessed it) The Sandlot.
Keep reading for our Q&A about the long-awaited reboot, dad life, and more.
Scary Mommy: It’s genuinely wild to think that the movie turns 30 in 2023. What do you think makes it so meaningful for people all these years later?
Patrick Renna: The generational transfer of power to children in this age group’s kind of perfect now, where people my age who liked the movie have teen kids now … And I just think the subject matter of the film is kind of something that’s getting lost in society today a little bit with iPads and screens. So, I think we’re holding onto it as much as we can. It’s not that screens are bad, and there are so many great opportunities now, but it’s a nice reminder of things that are important and to get out there, have fun, live life, and get a little dirty.
I think we all had that one perfect summer as kids before everything changed. Was filming the movie yours?
I think it’s one of them, for sure. I mean, I was 13. It was me and a bunch of what would become my best friends — we’re still all really close to this day — just playing baseball and getting paid to do it. It doesn’t get much better than that.
We all stayed in the same condominium complex. I’ll never forget the pool we had; it was an indoor-outdoor pool, and you would swim under a glass wall to get to the other side. And just those sort of memories, and going to see movies. We snuck into Basic Instinct together, a bunch of 13-year-old boys just tearing up the town in Salt Lake City.
How often do you play baseball these days?
I now coach my son’s t-ball league, so I’m out on the baseball field during the season twice a week. A buddy of mine and I coach the team, but we don’t get to play a lot. We’ll often get in a little round of catch, and it’s fun. So, I’m on the field a lot, but play baseball not as much as I’d like to. I need to get back to it because there’s nothing like it.
I was going to ask if you’re as much of a shit-talker as Ham, but I guess probably not if you’re coaching kids, ha.
I shit-talk the other coaches; I definitely do. Very quietly away from the kids. I’ll pull up aside, and I’ll kick dirt on their feet and go, ‘I know you’re not keeping score, but I am.’ Yeah, it still lives on for sure.
I read that you Sandlot boys started a group chat around the 25th anniversary. Is it basically a grownup, digital version of the treehouse: pure shenanigans?
It’s the most annoying chat because Marty York, who plays Yeah-Yeah, and Tom Guiry, who plays Smalls, are Android users. So it’s green-bubbled and awful. I can’t leave it if I want… we’re stuck in this endless thing. And Tom — he’s highly intelligent — sometimes he’ll just put monologues of crap that we have to read through. It’s the greatest and worst thing in my life right now.
This feels like a really appropriate moment to drop, “You’re killing me, Smalls.”
You’re killing me, Smalls. (laughs) And he really is, still to this day.
I obviously have to ask about the Disney+ Sandlot series. What’s happening? We need details.
I know, I haven’t heard anything recently. There was a little period of time where they were talking about it … I think it would be great. I think because Sandlot was a Fox movie originally, it’s not just a straight Disney property. So, they got [the rights] with buying Fox, but I’m sure there’s so much red tape around things like that. When the dust settles, they’ll probably put something fun together on it.
And how do you see Ham now? A dad? A wrestler?
Yeah, I think Ham had his prime years in his twenties and thirties, and now he’s an over-the-hill wrestler. I would love it. I also feel like I should have a daughter, like a 13-year-old daughter, just to give me a hard time for the ‘You play ball like a girl’ line. So, now I have a 13-year-old daughter who crushes baseball or softball, and I’m an over-the-hill wrestler. It writes itself.
In real life, you married your own Wendy Pfeffercorn: your wife Jasmin. What amazes you the most about watching her as a mother?
I’m constantly in awe of her. Both [of our kids] are so attached to her in a wonderful way, and she just really takes such good care of them. A mother is 24/7. I get to get a break or go shoot something or leave for a few hours, but she is nonstop. My respect for her has been raised even more. I don’t know how mothers do that because I’m alone with the kids for a few hours, and I’m like, ‘OK, need a massage and some TV.’
What’s your favorite thing about fatherhood?
Just probably that you don’t realize what it means until you are a parent. For the first time in your life, you actually care about something more than yourself. And it’s not even in a weird way, but you put yourself first in life constantly … Then you bring these little guys into the world, and now all of a sudden, it’s not about you anymore. I’ve never cared about anything like my two boys.
I’ve also never had anything in my life challenge me as much as they do, but it’s so rewarding. They can infuriate you more than anything’s ever infuriated you because they just won’t listen. And then 30 seconds later, just come cuddle you, and you’re like, ‘OK, you’re forgiven. Love you.’ That’s pretty special, that sort of relationship with someone.
It really is. But just a heads, my dude: The tween years are tricky.
Oh God, I thought five was going to be a cakewalk, but it is not.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.