The Sandlot turned 25 this past weekend. The most interesting, most captivating, most inspiring character in the movie is Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, an all-world talent who does many impressive things during the movie. As such, here are all of the things that Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez does in The Sandlot, arranged by how impressive each thing is.
32. Teaches Smalls where left center is
This one happens immediately after Benny is able to pressure the rest of the team into letting Smalls play with them. He tells Smalls to play left center, so Smalls runs to left field and asks Benny if he’s in the right spot. Benny shakes his head and points to where Smalls is supposed to be. It’s an easy thing, but also secretly impressive because it happens so fluidly and without real effort (despite the fact Smalls has never played baseball before).
31. Introduces Smalls to all of the other players on the team
It was a lot of names (and nicknames) to remember.
30. Helps Smalls dress better
Smalls dresses like a dork. After Benny tells him what to wear, he no longer dresses like a dork. He dresses like Benny, which, FYI, doing something “like Benny” is the best way to handle literally every situation.
29. Oversees multiple practices for a group of middle school baseball players
This is so much harder than you’d think.
28. Hits the ball in the general area where Smalls is standing so Smalls can try to catch it
This one happens during Smalls’s first practice with the team. He’s in the outfield, and he’s nervous, and he’s just watched a couple of the other boys whip the ball around the bases perfectly, and he’s praying that he never has to do anything like that. Then Benny calls his name, tosses a ball up to himself, then cracks it out to within a few feet of Smalls. Smalls misses it, but it’s still impressive that Benny could get the ball so close to him without even really trying.
27. Defends Smalls when he brings him to the sandlot
When Benny and Smalls show up together, the other kids on the team start ripping into Smalls about how sucky he is at baseball, and Benny barks loud enough at them that, even though they still don’t like that Smalls is going to be a part of the team, they accept it.
26. Plays catcher
He does so during batting practice. (We never find out what position Benny actually plays on the team, but I suspect that’s because he plays whatever position he wants whenever he wants.)
25. Outruns everyone to Smalls when Smalls is trying to climb the gate to get the ball
This happens after Hamilton knocks a home run over the gate and into The Beast’s yard. Smalls, who doesn’t know any better yet, can’t understand what the big deal is (everyone is hollering about how they won’t be able to play baseball anymore), and Smalls is like, “No worries. I’ll go get it,” and then begins to climb the fence. When the other boys realize what’s happening, they all burn off toward the gate to stop him. Benny, who was playing catcher, is at the back of the pack when everyone takes off running. He eats up everyone, though, flying by them all, getting to Smalls before anyone else.
24. Understands that the only way Smalls will understand the massiveness of The Beast’s legend is for him to see it for himself
All of the other kids are trying to explain to Smalls how deadly and dangerous The Beast is. Smalls, because he is an idiot, can’t quite understand. So Benny, a master of psychology, tells Smalls to just go over to the gate and look through a hole to see the horror on the other side. It’s the same way that parents let a kid touch something mildly hot after warning him or her enough times not to touch it.
23. Allows the kids to vote on what to do when it’s too hot to play baseball
Benny understands that as the leader, ruling with absolute terror and authority is a method that will last for only so long. That’s why when the other players on the team tell him that it’s too hot to play baseball one day, he doesn’t force them to. He doesn’t even choose an alternate activity. He lets someone else do it (but only because he knew exactly what was going to be chosen, because Benny is a genius and a brilliant tactician). (FYI, Yeah-Yeah chose for the boys to all go swimming. That’s what they did that day.)
22. Comes up with the quick plan to buy a ball to replace the Babe Ruth ball in Smalls’s stepdad’s den
After the Babe Ruth ball gets knocked over the gate, Benny sends everyone out to find cans and bottles and whatnot so they can return them to stores and get money so they can buy a decoy ball so nobody notices the actual Babe Ruth ball is missing. It’s a remarkable plan to come up with so quickly, particularly when you compare it to the plan that Squints came up with. (Squints’s plan wasn’t a plan at all. The boys were all sitting in the tree house, trying to figure out a way to get the ball back. Smalls suggests that they just ask the old man in the house to get the ball. Squints shoots him down, saying it’s a non-option because the old man, Mr. Mertle, is the one who made The Beast eat the first kid who tried to climb into the backyard. After a moment of silence, Squints says, “Let’s just look out the window.” That was literally his whole plan: to look out the window of the tree house into The Beast’s yard and stare at the ball. What a boob.)
21. Ignores the black eye that Smalls has
Smalls gets a black eye while playing catch with Bill, his stepdad. When Benny shows up the next day to invite Smalls to play with him and the rest of the team, he completely ignores it (even though he’d just seen Smalls the day before and Smalls’s eyes were fine). He doesn’t mention it one single time, which is how you know that Benny is advanced and special. (My guess is that Benny saw Smalls’s eye, thought about how Smalls had embarrassed himself the day before when he tried to throw the ball from the outfield to the infield, realized that Smalls had probably gone home and tried to get someone to play catch with him, then took a baseball to the eyeball. And if you think Benny couldn’t possibly have been that forward of a thinker, I’ll remind you that Benny showed up to pick up Smalls with not only an extra glove for him because he knew he was going to need one, but also that he had an extra baseball cap for him because he knew Smalls was going to need that too.) (Also: Serious thought should be given to the idea that Bill threw the ball at Smalls’s eye on purpose as a way to get out of playing catch with him right then.)
20. Successfully navigates a rundown while wearing a button-up shirt and khakis
It happens during the first at-bat that we see Benny take. He knocks a ball deep into the outfield, makes it to third before the ball gets thrown home, then gets stuck in what should’ve been a deathtrap between third and home. He pings back and forth as the third baseman and catcher try to close in on him, then, at exactly the right moment, he takes advantage of a lazy step by the catcher and sprints past him, scoring himself an inside-the-park home run.
19. Disciplines Yeah-Yeah and Squints for being late when they bring the new ball
Benny also understands that as the leader, he has to keep control of everyone, and that if he doesn’t establish rules, things could quickly turn into a Lord of the Flies situation. That’s why he fusses at Yeah-Yeah and Squints for taking too long when they were tasked with getting a new ball from the drugstore when they needed one.
18. Hits a game-ending, first-pitch grand slam
The only game the sandlot kids play against another actual team is their matchup against the Tigers, a fancier, proper baseball team. The sandlot kids crush them, and the game ends with Benny smashing a pitch into another town, possibly another state, possibly another country.
17. Invites Smalls to play with the team
This is an example of Benny being: (1) extremely pragmatic, because he knows that Smalls is terrible but he also knows that his team is short a player; (2) extremely empathetic, because he knows that if he doesn’t extend that invitation to Smalls that Smalls is going to be an outcast for the entire summer (and potentially for the entire time that Smalls lives in the neighborhood); and (3) extremely confident in himself, because despite the fact Smalls literally could not throw a baseball more than five feet when he met him, he suspected he’d be able to turn him into a proper baseball player regardless.
16. Convinces the team to show up at 8 a.m. to practice
DURING THE SUMMER.
15. Shouts “LOOK OUT!” at The Beast as the gate begins to fall
The end-of-movie chase between The Beast and Benny ends with Benny jumping back over the original gate into Mr. Mertle’s yard. The Beast follows, and as the dog’s standing there staring at Benny, the gate—by then structurally unsound from all the recent activity—begins to fall over. It’s clear it’s going to squish The Beast, but right before it does Benny shouts to The Beast, “LOOK OUT!” Warning the dog that you think is going to kill you that it’s about to get injured is a remarkable thing. (For the record, I would have never shouted “LOOK OUT!” at The Beast to warn him that he was about to get smashed by a gate. I’d have waited until he was smashed and then shouted something like, “THAT’S WHAT YOU GET, YOU FUCKING BITCH!”)
14. Does a front flip out of the tree house
During one of the attempts to get the Babe Ruth ball back, the kids make a giant suction machine using a bunch of vacuum cleaners. As they try to retrieve the ball, the hose gets pinched shut by The Beast, causing all the vacuum cleaners to explode. Right before they explode, all the kids leave the tree house. Some climb down a ladder and some slide down a fire pole; Yeah-Yeah uses a rope, while Ham tries to use a rope ladder. Benny, though, because he is incredible, does a fucking front flip out of the tree house from the top level.
13. Makes an analogy when he’s teaching Smalls how to throw
This is a thing that all excellent teachers do: They take something a person already knows and then use it as a way to teach them something new. In this instance, Smalls didn’t know how to throw a baseball. He honest to goodness couldn’t throw a ball farther than his own shoes. After Benny gave him a paper route analogy (essentially he tells him that throwing a baseball is no different than throwing a newspaper like you would on a paper route, then shows him where to let the ball go when your arm is trying to throw it), Smalls was able to rocket it from the outfield to second base, no sweat.
12. Wears a size-10 shoe
Two things: First of all, Benny is, at most, a seventh grader heading into his eighth grade year. A size-10 shoe at 12 or 13 years old is impressive. Second of all, it’s not even a regular size 10. It’s a PF Flyers size 10, which, because it doesn’t have any cushioning in it, means it’s somewhere closer to a size 12 in a regular shoe.
11. Pays for everyone on the team to get tickets at the carnival
Part of the reason that this is impressive is because it shows that Benny understands how important team-building activities are when you’re trying to build a championship team. But really the real reason this is impressive is because carnivals are expensive and paying for yourself and eight other kids to get tickets for rides and games means he walked into that carnival with, at the very least, whatever the 1960s equivalent of $600 is today.
10. Spends an entire day with a baseball cap in his back pocket
It’s the one mentioned in the 21st entry earlier. Benny gave Smalls the extra glove when he showed up to Smalls’s house in the morning, but he didn’t give him the cap until after the day was over and they’d finished playing ball. That means he spent the whole day with a hat in his back pocket, waiting for a moment that he knew was going to happen.
9. Steals home during a Major League Baseball game
This one happens at the very end of the movie. Benny has grown up and now plays for the Dodgers. Smalls has grown up and is now a radio announcer for the Dodgers. Benny, pinch running at third, steals home and scores. He gets up and celebrates with his teammates and then turns toward the announcer booth and gives a thumbs up to Smalls. (A fun thing: The guy who played the grown-up version of Benny was actually the real-life older brother of the kid who played Benny.)
8. Bats 1.000 for the duration of the movie
Furthermore, every at-bat for Benny is exactly one pitch long, and it always ends with either (a) some poor outfielder staring at the ball as it’s blasted out of whatever park he happens to be playing in, or (b) some poor outfielder trying to make a throw from deep in the outfield to third base. (The only time Benny doesn’t score after batting during The Sandlot is when he busts the guts out of the ball.)
7. Picks up a bat when the Tigers show up to the sandlot
This one, above everything else that Benny does in the movie, lets you know that he is not about that bullshit. The Tigers come riding their bikes out onto the sandlot, and all the sandlot kids throw their gloves on the ground in anger as they walk toward the Tigers to confront them. Benny, though, does not. He bends over, picks up a baseball bat, and then carries it toward where the potential fight is going to happen. All of the other kids were ready to toss insults back and forth at each other. Benny was ready to crack a 12-year-old over the head with a bat.
6. Actually decides to jump the gate and get the Babe Ruth ball
Here’s what you have to think about with this one: As a viewer, you, smart and reasonable, understand there is a zero percent chance that Benny could potentially be eaten alive by a dog in a movie that’s rated PG. As a viewer, you, smart and reasonable, understand that the myth the kids have built up around The Beast is exactly that: a myth. But for Benny (and for everyone under 13 years old, really), he was hopping a gate to stare down actual and literal death. He jumped into that yard completely of the mind that there was a real chance he could be eaten alive by an animal—his arms and legs broken as The Beast cracked them into shards and chewed on them, his skull bitten into pieces, his whole everything destroyed and desecrated. He thought about all of that, and he still jumped in the yard to get a fucking baseball.
5. Swims in jeans
This is how I know that Benny was Mexican. He’s legit the only kid in the whole group who is swimming in jeans, which is secretly very hilarious. (And they weren’t even the jeans he had been playing baseball in that day. They were cut-off jean shorts, meaning he went home, dug through his drawers, found them, and was like, “Yep. Swim trunks.”) (Also: Now seems like a good time to mention that Squints risking death for the chance to sexually assault Wendy Peffercorn is one of the all-time worst creeper moves.)
4. Outruns The Beast
The Beast was a mastiff. You can click this link to get to a thing from a guy who says he clocked the top speed his mastiff could run as being 24 miles per hour. Usain Bolt has a top speed of 28 miles per hour. That means Benny was running at a speed that was within shouting distance of Usain. And, same as when he was swimming, he was doing so in jeans.
3. Hits the guts out of a ball
During practice one day, Benny hits a pitch with so much fire and ferocity that the insides become the outsides. After expressing frustration that he’s just ruined the day for everyone since they don’t have a ball to play with anymore, Squints responds, “Come on, Benny, man. Maybe two, three guys in history ever busted the guts out of the ball.” Through the ’60s, there had been something close to 100 billion people that had lived on earth. And of those 100 billion, only two (possibly three) of them had ever done what Benny did right there.
2. Hits the ball into Smalls’s glove while Smalls stands there with his eyes closed and his glove in the air like an idiot
Athletically, this is the most impressive thing that Benny does in the movie. Just a minute or so earlier, he’d hit a ball toward Smalls and Smalls missed it totally. Benny ran out to him to coach him up, and as he was walking back to the batter’s box Smalls asked him how to catch it. Benny told him to just stand there and put his glove in the air and he’d take care of the rest. So Benny goes to the batter’s box, and when he gets there he tells Smalls to throw it to second. Smalls, who again is standing wayyyyyyy in the outfield, nods, closes his eyes, then holds his glove up in the air.
This is from a thing I wrote at Grantland three years ago about this exact moment, and I’m going to plug it in here because it still stands and fits in nicely:
“They make a big deal in the movie about Babe Ruth having called his shot in the World Series. That’s fine. It’s cool. But he pointed to a whole fucking section of a stadium. Benny had to hit a ball into a 4-by-4-inch pocket from home plate to left center, and he nailed it. If he missed it 8 inches to the right, that would’ve been the end of Smalls’s playing career. It would’ve bounced off the dirt, everyone would’ve started laughing at Smalls again, and that’s that. Have fun being a pariah. Or even more traumatic: What if he missed it by 8 inches to the left? It’d have clonked Smalls right on the forehead. At that speed, he might’ve gone into a coma, probably died from brain trauma. So Smalls was only either going to be on the team after that hit, or he was going to be dead, either socially or literally. Benny was staring at a for-real life-or-death situation, and he was unfazed.”
Benny hitting the ball into Smalls’s glove was like the baseball version of when Robin Hood split an arrow in half with his own arrow.
1. Talks to the ghost of Babe Ruth
Benny’s gravity was so strong that it pulled the ghost of Babe Ruth out of his dead body and dragged it all the way into Benny’s bedroom. Think on that. The universe was so smitten with Benny that, when Benny had even an ounce of doubt in himself, the universe, for a brief moment, folded itself over for him, mushing together the living realm with the ghost realm so that he could get a pep talk from his dead hero. It was the most impressive thing.