The 1993 movie "The Sandlot" is a classic American coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s. It's about nine boys spending their summer days playing baseball in an unkempt piece of land. Their summertime fun takes a wrong turn when the main protagonist of the movie, Scotty Smalls, hits his step-father's baseball, signed by "The Sultan of Swat" Babe Ruth, into a yard protected by a massive dog known as "The Beast." The boys must now help Smalls get the ball back before The Beast chews it to pieces. Each character in the film has a different personality and a different skill, but they are bound together by their love of baseball.
Groups of military friends are a lot like the Sandlot kids, especially when they are deployed to the "Sandbox" (mil-speak for the Middle East). And just like any group of friends, each person brings a different dynamic and trait to the group in order to complete a mission. No matter what era you served in, veterans can relate to having their group of battle buddies/shipmates be just like characters from this cult classic film:
Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez
Benny is the group's leader and everyone looks up to him. He serves as a mentor to the others, especially Smalls. Benny is brave, smart, and a physically fit stud who can out hit and outrun every kid (as well as The Beast) with his trusty P.F. Flyers shoes on. Along with being a great player, Benny is friendly, humble, and a teacher. The best thing about "The Jet" is that he is wise beyond his years and willing to risk life and limb (for instance, hopping over the fence to challenge "The Beast" to get the ball back) to help his friends.
Military Friend: The Leader
Every group of military friends seems to have a clear leader. He or she seems to be good at everything they do. They are physically dominating and willing to take a risk for the betterment of the team. The group leader is not only awesome but selfless. For this person, it's all about the team.
Scotty Smalls is the new kid in the neighborhood trying to fit in. "The Jet" reaches out to him, like the good leader and person he is, and takes the new kid under his wing. Scotty is introduced to the rest of the guys, but the boys are not too keen on him at first due to his lack of baseball skill. Eventually, the team warms up to him, and is simply referred to him by his surname 'Smalls.' Although he is now a part of the team, the boys like to give him grief throughout the movie for his lack of understanding of common things like S'mores, chewing tobacco, and (of course) not knowing who Babe Ruth is. This frustration introduces the classic line "You're killin' me, Smalls!" Smalls gets the team into the situation or 'pickle' when he hits the baseball signed by "The Great Bambino" over the fence and into the grips of The Beast.
Military Friend: The New Guy/Gal
New people are always cycling into the military. Think of Smalls as the new private/airman joining the unit. The new kid lacks knowledge and always seem to be getting in some sort of dilemma that the rest of the group needs to get him/her out of. It can be frustrating. Despite the growing pains, the "Smalls" of a group of military friends eventually becomes a reliable member.
Hamilton "Ham" Porter
Despite the physique, Ham is the muscle of the team. Don't let the chunks fool you, Ham is a good athlete and a classic home-run hitter. Ham can also flat out talk trash like the best of them, especially to anyone who challenges his friends. The character's most famous scene is when he tells a rival ball player that he "plays ball like a girl," a classic "drop mic" line. Ham tells it like it is and enjoys messing with his teammates from time to time.
Military Friend: The Enforcer
Every group of military buddies has an enforcer. This military friend is probably more muscularly defined than Ham's "soft belly meat," but the character traits are the same as the curly haired catcher. This friend will always stand up for his friends and is not afraid of anyone.
Michael "Squints" Palledorous
Squints likes to tell stories although he does seem to exaggerate many of his tales (especially when it comes to talking about "The Beast"). He even claimed the dog ate anywhere between 120-173 guys. (Talk about an imagination!) Squints may look like a classic nerd-bomber with his big-ass birth-control glasses and teeth – on the contrary, he is self-confident, cool, and ballsy. He is so daring, he even pretends to drown at the pool just to kiss his crush, Wendy Peffercorn, who is the prettiest girl in town.
Military Friend: The Storyteller
Veterans always seem to have that friend who likes to tell elaborate stories. Despite their size and look, this friend may also ooze confidence, even if they have eyewear bigger than their face.
With his signature fastball "The Heater," Kenny DeNunez is the team's pitcher. He is a dedicated and hard-working ballplayer second only to "The Jet" in terms of baseball skill. He is a solid teammate.
Military Friend: The Dependable One
Most groups of military battle buddies have a great worker who may lack a big personality but is reliable when he/she is needed most.
Alan "Yeah-Yeah" McClennan
Yeah-Yeah is a bit of a smart aleck who started many of his sentences with "Yeah-Yeah." It's a perfect nickname for him. He is also a bit of a daredevil when he attempted to retrieve the Ruth ball in an aerial style attack over the fence. It's disclosed at the end of the film that "Yeah-Yeah" joins the military and later becomes a pioneer of bungee jumping.
Military Friend: The Smartass Daredevil
This friend likes to joke around and do dangerous activities. It is safe to say every group of military buddies has a "Yeah-Yeah" in their group. Maybe even more than one.
Bertram Grover Weeks
Bertram is an infielder who seems like a subdued character for most of the film, but then shows signs of a "bad boy" when he gives his friends some chewing tobacco.
Military Friend: The Quiet Rebel
Don't mistake his quiet nature for his rebellious side.
Military Friend: The Builder
This friend can make anything with spare material and some 550 cord.
Tommy "Repeat" Timmons
Tommy is the smallest kid of the group. He is also the most bothersome because he repeats everything his older brother Timmy says throughout the movie. It's easy to forget Tommy except for this annoying habit.
Military friend: The Annoying One
Sometimes you just want to choke him out.
Military friends are a unique cast of characters who share a special bond, especially when serving in "The Sandbox." Eventually, friends go their separate ways but the memories of their time together live "FOR-EV-ER!"
Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82