Olivero: Breckenridge drive-in screening of ‘The Sandlot’ quenches sports thirst | SummitDaily.com

Olivero: Breckenridge drive-in screening of ‘The Sandlot’ quenches sports thirst

Movie-goers watch The Sandlot from their parked cars at Colorado Mountain College Breckenridge on Saturday, June 20.
Courtesy Christina Seifert Photography

BRECKENRIDGE — Saturday night’s 100-car, 400-person drive-in movie at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge was an idea three months in the making.

In mid-March, the day after the novel coronavirus pandemic effectively shutdown Summit County, Breck Film Fest came up with the idea of a drive-in movie. Soon, the organization realized Breckenridge Creative Arts was considering the same idea, so the two entities partnered to see if they could make it work.

There was only one problem: With COVID-19 shutting down so many recreation and entertainment options across the country, many also had the drive-in movie idea. And, during the worst of the pandemic, the few companies that produced and shipped large drive-in-movie screens weren’t considered essential businesses, meaning their production of screens would lag the demand for them.

As such, it took six weeks from the time the order went in in April for Breckenridge’s drive-in movie screen for it to arrive. But come Saturday, June 20, at CMC Breckenridge, it was an event Breck Film Fest Marketing and Development Manager Ashley Hughes believes was the largest singular community event the town has seen since the start of the COVID-19 shutdown.

The film event organizers decided on for Saturday was the classic ’90s children’s movie “The Sandlot.” Hughes said one of the main reasons why was because sports — namely baseball — were canceled in March and April.

The drive-in-movie experience, I have to say, was better than I expected. After we were initially ushered into a parking spot that didn’t have the best view from the driver’s side, the event officials were open enough to have us move back a row to get a better glimpse. We were able to see everything on the screen pretty well despite the fact that we were a good eight rows from the front. The sound was impeccable as event organizers used a transponder to dial into 91.9 on the FM radio.

After Hughes provided a pre-recorded video introduction on screen — where she said how important an event like this was for both the community and Breck Film Fest, who’s trying to rebrand from an annual film festival event to a year-round operation — the opening credits rolled. Those in attendance heard the familiar narrator’s voice of Scotty Smalls, transporting us to the summer of 1962 in the San Fernando Valley of California. More specifically, we went to Smalls and his friends’ “sandlot,” where pick-up baseball games take place summer day after summer day, dawn till dusk.

For myself, in this turbulent time of COVID-19, watching the screen from our car, this was an ideal getaway from our culture’s current fever pitch of problems.

As a sports fan, to be reminded of the movie’s focus — one on the game of baseball serving as a unifying, welcoming medium for the main character Smalls — was a reminder I needed.

I’m the son of a father who grew up playing a type of sandlot ball, “stickball” in New York City. My version of a sandlot sport was playing basketball in the cement parking lot of Our Lady of Lourdes school in Queens. Like “The Sandlot” characters idolized Babe Ruth, me and my grammar-school friends — like in “The Sandlot,” of all racial backgrounds — pretended to be Michael Jordan.

Back on our sandlot, which was more like a cement lot, we shot whatever version of a ball we could find that day — from tennis balls to crumpled up newspaper — into an aluminum trash can. And we loved it.

As the movie concluded, and as one car after another honked their horns in thanks as the CMC lights came on, I, like so many others, had a smile on my face. For the film’s runtime of 101 minutes, I soaked in the scenes.

They included that of catcher Hamilton “Ham” Porter ribbing batters at the plate with one joke after another. They included Squints telling horror stories of “The Beast” dog in the friend group’s tree house. They included the youngsters admiring the fireworks on the Fourth of July as Ray Charles’ classic version of “America The Beautiful” echoed in the night sky.

For a night, it was the America of the ’90s I remembered growing up in New York City, where, daily, we friends came together over a game.

It was unity. It was sports.

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