PALM BAY — Even the writer of “The Sandlot” is rooting for Benny Smalls Querry.
When screenwriter David Mickey Evans heard about coach Rob Querry’s challenge to his Heritage High baseball team — “win 14 games, name my baby,” — he just had to meet them. After all, the moniker the team chose is based on two of his characters from the classic baseball film: Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez and Scotty Smalls. The team currently has 13 wins with 5 games left to play.
So Evans and his wife, Stacey, drove from New Smyrna Beach on Monday to surprise the high schoolers.
And, boy, were they surprised.
“Ohhhhh!” they crowed and fist-bumped when Querry introduced them to Evans before their game against Bayside.
“I guess I’ve had some small contribution in naming his new son. I guess he can call me Uncle Dave now,” Evans joked. “That someone would actually name one of their children after a character in my movie … it’s definitely one for the ages. This has never happened before.”
It won’t happen just yet. Bayside, Heritage’s closest rival and Querry’s former team, shut down the Panthers on Monday for a 4-0 win. Heritage will try again at 6 p.m. Tuesday when it hosts Harmony.
But that came after Monday’s meeting between the team and author.
“I can’t believe you’re here!” mom Julia cried when she met Evans at Heritage High. “This is amazing!” The expectant mom is due in mid-September.
It was yet another home run for the team that’s riding the “name my baby” craze. A FLORIDA TODAY story by Brian McCallum was picked up by national media, including the UK’s Daily Mail. So on Saturday morning, the Heritage High Panthers and the Querrys — coach, Julia and 4-year-old Brady — filmed a segment for the “Today” show.
Evans heard about that and the Benny Smalls-“Sandlot” tie and contacted Rob Querry, telling him, “I’ve gotta come down and meet you and say hey to your team. This is just too good.”
The experience moved 18-year-old Shane McCarthy to tears. ”This is a dream come true,” the Palm Bay student said. “Any baseball player who grows up watching this movie … this is a childhood dream.”
Yadiel Vazquez, 16, of Palm Bay agreed: “This is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Evans stayed to watch Monday’s game. He presented the team with autographed “Sandlot” T-shirts and had something extra special for coach Rob Querry, a pair of PF Flyers. In the 1993 film, Benny dons the PF Flyers to help get the players out of a pickle.
“It’s unbelievable. I’ve grown up watching ‘The Sandlot,’ watching all three of them,” said 17-year-old Jordan Delgado of Palm Bay. He was psyched to meet Evans, and the surprise meet-and-greet will definitely help the team get to 14 wins. “We’re going to win districts and all the games we have left.”
FLORIDA TODAY‘s Brian McCallum contributed to this report.
Sangalang is FLORIDA TODAY‘s entertainment reporter and Nerdgirl columnist.
Contact Sangalang at 321-242-3630