Here’s a bold assertion: Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez is far and away the greatest character in sports movie history. Screw being “like Mike.” If you didn’t want to be like Benny from The Sandlot growing up, you weren’t doing childhood right.
There are so, so many examples to support this claim that I don’t even know where to begin. Benny was the coolest kid and best ball player on the block. He could outrun a pickle in his PF Flyers. He practically mentored Scott Smalls by giving the new kid a glove, teaching him how to dress and unbelievably hitting that fly ball exactly where Smalls was standing with his eyes shut tight and glove held high.
Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez jumped the freaking fence to fetch the Babe Ruth ball right from under The Beast’s nose. (Take that, beast!) The ghost of Babe Ruth even wanted to chit chat with the GOAT of San Fernando Valley. Benny Rodriguez is already your favorite character as the movie wraps up, and then he goes and steals home in an MLB game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Funny enough, the guy who played that version of Benny was the actor’s actual older brother.
In the 28 years since the iconic baseball movie was released, a lot has changed. Wendy Peffercorn hasn’t aged a bit, however. Benny Rodriguez may not be slugging home runs or stealing home plate in the Major Leagues anymore, but he is saving lives in (where else?) Los Angeles.
Who Played Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez?
The actor who played Benny Rodriguez is Mike Vitar, although he’s no longer an actor.
Vitar went on to play roles in TV shows Chicago Hope (1997) and NYPD Blue (1996), but sports movie fanatics may have recognized him for his role of Luis Mendoza in Disney’s D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994) and D3: The Mighty Ducks (1996).
Vitar will forever be tied to The Sandlot, but it appears he’s distanced himself from the movie. The all-grown-up baseball team, including Ham, Squints and Yeah Yeah has appeared in public for reunions of the movie in the years since, but Vitar hasn’t joined.
Born in Los Angeles, Vitar began his acting career when he was 12 after a casting manager spotted him in line at a school carnival. He graduated from St. Francis High School in La Cañada, California, in 1997. That’s when the Cuban actor left the Hollywood film industry and pursued a different career.
Where is Mike Vitar Now?
Vitar isn’t stealing bases anymore, but he is saving lives.
The 42-year-old former childhood actor has been a firefighter for the Los Angeles Fire Department since 2002 and still lives in the Southern California city. In 2015, The Sandlot star and some fellow firefighters came under fire when they reportedly assaulted and choked out a 22-year-old man for handing out candy to children on Halloween. The man suffered brain damage and liver failure before the group revived him. Vitar was charged with misdemeanor battery for the incident.
Vitar moved past the ugly incident. The Los Angeles firefighter has a wife and three children and lives what seems to be a pretty normal life.
Still, Benny The Jet Rodriguez will always be an all-star. Maybe his children will head out to the local sandlot like he did.
This article was originally published May 14, 2020.