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Michael Anthony Vitar, one of the stars of the classic coming-of-age baseball movie The Sandlot is facing up to four years in state prison after being charged with assaulting a man on Halloween.
The news, from The Hollywood Reporter, states that Michael Anthony Vitar, 36, now a Los Angeles firefighter, acted with two other men to assault a 22-year-old man who was handing out candy to kids as he walked down the street. Allegedly, the trio saw the victim handing out candy, chased him down and jumped him, before one of Vitar’s associates choked the man. Vitar has been charged with “one count of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury,” according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Man, I’m not even sure what to say about this. Except that, if Michael Anthony Vitar really did participate in this, it’s sad for a lot of reasons. Vitar played Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez (also known as Benny the Jet) in the 1993 baseball film. The movie centered on a group of neighborhood boys in the early 1960s who play the sport in an empty sandlot near their homes. The friends get into numerous scrapes and have a summer filled with adventure.
Some of this adventure included losing a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, which was owned by a stepfather of one of the boys. When the kids realize how valuable the ball is, they concoct a series of outlandish plans and machines to retrieve it from the junkyard behind the sandlot, which is protected by a giant dog known only to them as The Beast.
The movie’s cast was filled with young unknown actors, and many are still under the radar today, even though the film has amassed a large cult following over the years. One thing (other than the obvious) that makes this case sad is that, by all appearances, Michael Anthony Vitar was living a relatively normal adult life, something that many child actors fail miserably at, whether they continue to act professionally or not. He had a good job, and hadn’t spent the past 22 years, as far as we know, going in and out of jail or making the unfortunately predictable string of horrible decisions that so many child actors seem destined to make as they grow up.
I’d like to hope that this is all a terrible mistake, but that looks pretty unlikely. Anyone who loves the summertime adventuring fun of The Sandlot is basically compelled to wish Michael Anthony Vitar the best. Vitar seems to have lost his way. All we can wish for him is that this gets wrapped up quickly and that he’ll be able to learn from his mistakes and come out the other side as a better person.