The Sandlot Theory

I would first like to start off by saying I am in no way, shape, or form a psychologist or sociologist, or even remotely close to being an expert in either field. I am a 22-year-old marketing major in Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. In fact I have only ever taken two psychology classes in my eight-year high school/college career . . . Boy it felt good to get that off my chest!! I just love sandlot baseball.

The boys of Sandlot

I would like to talk about something I like to call “The Sandlot Theory.” If you have not watched the 1993 coming-of-age movie, The Sandlot, starring Tom Guiry and Mike Vitar, PLEASE find two hours in the next week to sit down and watch the film. You will not be disappointed. If you are anyone like me, you sat on your grandmother’s couch in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania every Thanksgiving for five years and watched the movie over and over and over. Just thinking about “Squints” kissing Wendy Peffercorn still makes me laugh; or the ever classic line from Ham Porter, “You play ball like a girl!” (Please, nobody take offense to this! Girls can play on the sandlot too!).

During my childhood, sandlot baseball was a HUGE thing. Whether it was at the ball fields in my town or our neighbor’s unkempt lawn; my twin brother, my friends, and I would meet up almost every single day from the first warmth of spring well into the fall to play either real baseball, wiffleball, or the ol’ tennis-racquet-baseball. I had an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Balsley, who had a beautiful, sprawling property overlooking the marshes, bay, and the Atlantic City skyline. Her house was the perfect location for our games. She was over 90, and only came out of the house for what seemed like every blue moon, but every single day my brother and I would knock on her back door and yell “Hey Mrs. Balsley, it’s Wes and Wyatt!” Without even coming to the door she would yell back from her chair in her living room, “Go ahead boys. Have fun!”

Ten years ago, after Mrs. Balsley passed away, developers bought her property and bulldozed the old home. They put up two beautiful homes on the sacred field I used to run the bases on. My friends and I were the last kids to ever sweat, bleed, fight, and win ball games on that sandlot. Thinking about it now I cannot help but smile. I am forever grateful for her generosity in letting us hang out on her property every day. I made a lifetime worth of memories in those summers with some of the best friends an eight-year-old boy could have ever asked for.

Growing up, I used to love listening to my dad and Uncle Bob tell stories about their sandlot glory days, my brother and I always trying to remember their friends’ names, who was the toughest, the fastest, and who hit the most home runs. Looking back, the tall tales and exaggerations got slightly bigger each time the stories were told, but one thing was constant – the look of nostalgia on their faces every time my brother and I happily sat and listened to those stories. The 1960s (when my dad and uncle grew up) was the hey-day for the sandlots, with families settling in new suburban locations. Some homes did not have televisions, cellphones were 30 years in the future, and the only way a kid could interact with his or her friends outside of school was if actual face-to-face hangouts took place. Bones were broken, knees were skinned, lessons were learned, and legends were made out on the grass and dirt fields. Come to think of it the film The Sandlot was actually set in 1962, perfectly detailing what I am talking about.

The reason that I bring up all these stories of my past are not to bore you with the specifics of my life, but to bring up what I firmly believe is a problem: Today’s youth rarely plays sandlot baseball anymore. I spent last summer living and working at home, and I did not see a single group of kids playing ball on our little league fields each time I walked down there that was not required to be there for a scheduled game or practice. Modern technology has changed our youth’s idea of fun, of play, and communication, to video games, Netflix, texting, and social media. The hours of hanging outside have been replaced by hours of children Snapchatting, Facebook messaging, and scrolling through their friends’ Instagram posts.

Sandlot baseball is on its last life. It is reserved for those who cannot afford the luxuries of having an XBOX One, an iPad, and an iPhone 6 to occupy their time. In another 10 years, 20 years since the passing of Mrs. Balsley, I wonder if kids will even know what the word “sandlot” actually is, or maybe was.

I learned the value of friendship, generosity, and hard work playing sandlot baseball, coming back day after day, trying to be the kid who was picked first on his team, and who my teammates could count on to knock them home. I built a closer relationship with my brother, my dad, and my uncle because of sandlot baseball, sharing similar childhood activities, and now, at 22, the same feelings of nostalgia when I think about that old field. Hopefully this summer I see a few kids down at the old ball fields; kids whose parents maybe have gotten sick of them not responding to their questions because of constant focus on a smartphone screen; kids whose parents might remember what it was like to slide into third base head first, ripping up their arms, with tan dirt getting stuck in their blood-crusted skin, but smiling at their buddies who they just knocked home; or maybe, just maybe, a group of kids who think playing ball is a hell of a lot more fun than reading about it in their Facebook news feeds. I still have a little bit of faith left.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sandlot

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108037/

http://www.toddsnyder.com/blogs/snyder-ny/7613479-spring-summer-style-guide-the-sandlot

11 comments

  1. Wow, I really like where you took your blog this week. Great job, Wes. We have discussed many of countless benefits of social media for companies and individuals, but we have not discussed the effects of SM on children to much extent. Growing up before the mobile age, the closest thing in my childhood experience would be cable television. We did not have cable for the majority of my childhood. (Until Ireland made the world cup and my parents finally caved for us to watch.) I am very grateful for this because it forced me outside. Although it was not to the sandlot, but to the basketball courts and to the soccer fields I reaped similar benefits and memories. Today, the modern technological and mobile age is robbing too many kids of similar experiences. At what point do parents need to step in, to ban the devices and to force their kids outside? It is a tough yet necessary line to draw in the sand. I am curious if there is any benefit from the incessant use of technology at such a young age … either way the Sandlot Theory is a very real problem. Also, this was a killer line “maybe, just maybe a group of kids who think playing ball is a hell of a lot more fun than reading about in their Facebook news feeds.”

  2. I agree with @conortownley that we have rarely discussed the effects of SM on children. I completely agree with you that kids now days are always surrounded with technology and SM, which leaves little time for other experiences we grew up with. I think Conor raised a good point of curiosity about whether there are any benefits from the use of technology at such a young age. I do believe that having all this technology has allowed more learning games and programs to be developed as well, and I often see parents letting their kids use technology for learning purposes. I also think being exposed to SM makes kids exposed to real world issues and news, forcing them to grow up/mature faster in a way. But of course, it depends what these kids are looking up from social media. Like we said in class, Facebook adjusts your newsfeed to what it thinks you would like to see, so if these kids never look at the news or other articles, then it could definitely be a waste of time. I’ve also heard the argument that some kids now days even have a hard time interacting with each other in person because they are so used to interacting through SM and a screen. I feel like there are so many pros and cons that the list could go on and on. Technology and SM has completely changed the childhood of the new generations, but I guess we can only see the benefits or damage that is done in the future.

  3. When I go out to dinner with my family or even a group of close friends, I’m astonished by the number of kids sitting at the table going to town on phones or other hand held devices, completely glued and unaware of what’s happening around them. Not only is it starting the addiction to technology at such a younger age than our generation has known, but its rooted in bad manners and causes kids to live everyday not appreciating what the non-virtual world has to offer. I love how you used The Sandlot to exemplify the shift of what childhood memories used to entail and how technology and social media has transformed that into something completely foreign to those “Sandlot” believers. Kids these days are missing out on what it means to be a kid! When else can you come home with dirt covered clothes with a mom to do your laundry or run like a spaz through the neighborhood? Kids can’t get away from the true meaning of what it means to be a kid growing up. Social media can wait. In 10 years, I’m going to look back thinking about all the summer nights I chose to ride my bike home late with my friends, or playing tag down the block as a kid, not what social media account I was looking at. Awesome post!

  4. I grew up in Vietnam and even though we did not have sandlot to play on, we played on grassy fields, paddy fields, dusty ground. I totally connect with your childhood there. Learning through real contact, through breaking bone, ripping skins, and leaving scars. I always wonder if kids nowadays in Vietnam could be able to have that real experience. Even though the majority of the country is still wild with nature, but the attraction of technology and social media have a great impact on the youth. I don’t think we can ever go back in back, the technology is here and it will be developing. But I believe that people will start to see the benefit, the meaning of face-to-face/ traditional contact. It is part of our human nature for empathy you know. I just don’t know when.
    I’m taking this class to know more about social media but I only have email and facebook account. I just created twitter account for this class. I’m afraid that I will be devoured within the social media mainstream….
    by the way, THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS. I really enjoy your post!

  5. This was a killer blog topic @kimblewe. I can’t imagine there is anyone who this post won’t hit home for. Pretty much pig tailing on what everyone else said, specifically @curryallison, it really does seem like kids today are missing out on what it means to be a kid. My most cherished childhood memories all have to do with adventures, interactions with the kids on my block, and simply being outside, while any valuable memories having to do with technology during my salad days are few and far between. Now when I go to the mall I see 2 year olds in strollers with their faces glued to an iPad screen.

    I’m sure you’ve seen this video (it absolutely blew up this time last year), but if you haven’t it’s a must watch. This was one of the first things your blog made me think of:

    Like @ma1tr said, we can’t go back. The technology is here to stay. It makes me wonder if this clear lack of outside world experience and interaction (by outside world I mean anything without an LCD screen) will truly open the door for virtual reality technologies in the future. Instead of there being a group of kids who choose to go outside and play ball, that group of kids may end up simply tossing on a pair of Oculus Rift VR goggles that enable them to play baseball together from inside their bedrooms, all while keeping their Facebook news feeds live in the corner of their headset monitors. Thoughts?

    Also, I really dig the name “The Sandlot Theory” haha could not be more perfect.

  6. Great post Wes! Like others have mentioned, I agree that social media and technology have created a shift in how kids behave and interact with others. With three younger siblings and a countless hours of babysitting, I have seen firsthand the effects this is having on children, like you discussed with your Sandlot example. I totally agree that those outdoor childhood memories are so important, and it’s sad to see that so many kids these days are content to stay indoors, glued to their phones and iPads.

  7. Definitely agree with this, and great to hear from someone of our generation. My parents and grandparents always say this, and my dad always points out that when he is in a waiting room, restaurant, living room, etc, everyone is just looking at their phones and not interacting with each other. Hopefully the youth of the future will be able to find a balance between technology and the other, more meaningful parts of their lives.

  8. I think this is one of the most interesting articles i have read since we have started blogging. I remember ever single day after school, I would play baseball in my front yard until the sun set. i think its really sad that my brother never got this opportunity, because he and his friends were playing video games in our basement. I actually think this whole phenomenon has led to a decline in kids playing baseball as a whole, which is sad on a different level. I, like you, will always have fond memories of playing literally every day with a wiffleball bat and a tennis ball. Thanks for letting me relive my childhood for a couple of minutes!

  9. This post is gold. Admittedly (and ashamedly), I’ve never seen The Sandlot. Don’t ask me how I missed out on it, I have no idea. Regardless, this post really resonated with me. You make such great points in mentioning the values that playing outside and interacting with other kids taught you–how will today’s children learn that from their phones and iPads? I remember that when we were bored as kids, my brother and I would bike around the neighborhood or pop (lame, but we thought they were cool) wheelies on our Razor scooters. Tossing the baseball with your parents is no longer so common, which is so sad. So many lessons can be learned and conversations can be had when we’re not on the phone. I’m interested in seeing how we millennials raise our children (although that’s a number of years away)–we grew up as technology grew up and grew in popularity, but we’re also seeing all of the negative impacts that it has on society and how adolescence has changed so greatly due to tech. It will be fascinating to see if we raise our own children with tech like so many kids today are, or if we’ll reserve the tech for our children’s teenage years and try to raise them like we were.

  10. Really great post. I do think boredom is an important source of creativity and SM means we don’t ever have to be bored again. I agree that this is likely to lead to unintended consequences. But I couldn’t help imagine a different future, though, where kids play sandlot baseball and also create their own broadcast network to televise/ preserve the games. That could be fun!

  11. Really cool post. I have a professor who always says that he hates forced fun. I think what he means by that is he hates fun that isn’t natural, or spontaneous, or adventurous; basically fun that is planned beforehand. I hate that too, and I feel that social media and the internet has made parents and schools make plans that force fun and ruin fun for kids everywhere.

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