Players watch on in the dugout and discuss potential strategies such as defensive alignment, batting order and most importantly, who’s pitching.
Players watch on in the dugout and discuss potential strategies such as defensive alignment, batting order and most importantly, who’s pitching.
Thanks to an event held by 43 Boys Baseball Club of Warsaw, kids from all over the area were able to channel their inner Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez for a day of baseball fun Saturday at the City-County Athletic Complex.

Inspired by the famous 1993 movie “The Sandlot.” the day’s rules stayed true to the themes of the movie. Parents and coaches filled the bleachers of the CCAC in bunches to watch their kids play, but that’s where involvement ended.

The players, who were separated onto different fields based on age groups, ran the show. The kids picked the teams, assigned players to their positions on the field and in the batting order and coached the bases themselves. Besides the coaches, players also took over the role of the umpire, calling balls and strikes from behind the plate.

One parent stood behind second base at each field to act as the last resort mediator if a call at the plate or on the base paths became too contentious. Throughout the day, the mediator was seldom used. Majority rule often won, and more times than not, players on the team the call went against would call it fairly.

“When we were kids we would just do this on our own. You think about [the movie], they never kept score, the game never ended, there were no parents involved,” 43 Boys Baseball Club Founder Seth Bradford said. “We have parents here, but we ask them not to get involved. You can tell by the smiles on their faces these kids are having a lot of fun.

43 Boys Baseball Club was started as a way to allow kids to play in a competitive environment without having to make the financial or time commitments of travel baseball. The team plays a variety of tournaments, all in Warsaw, against teams from other areas of the state and sometimes Michigan.

“We want these kids to play at high levels without their families having to sacrifice their entire summer,” Bradford said. “Our main goal is to teach kids the life lessons of baseball. The failures and the toughness that comes with it.”

43 Boys Baseball was supposed to host a few out of town teams on Saturday for a tournament, but scheduling conflicts caused it to be cancelled. With a free day and some baseball fields begging to be used, the organization came up with “Sandlot” Day as a replacement.

With enough kids showing up to start two nine-on-nine games just minutes after the 10 a.m. start time, the idea was clearly a success. Someone eavesdropping on a dugout could hear the players asking each other which positions they could play best, where they usually hit in the order. A ball in the gap would have kids channeling their inner first base coach, waving their arms around for their hitter to take second.

The smiles were contagious, and the looseness and energy the players played with in these no-pressure situations was palpable. Very few issues arose throughout the day, with the most egregious being a few questionable strike calls from catchers trying their best to help their pitchers out. There were not any shout outs of “You’re killing me, Smalls!”