Add a starring role in the cult childhood flick of a generation, and you've got Internet gold.
“Happy birthday to Los Angeles firefighter Mike Vitar aka Benny 'The Jet' Rodriguez from the super-awesome film The Sandlot” …
… writes the L.A. Firemen's Relief Association on its Tumblr today. (Super awesome? Strong words, for a good-old-boy group that offers “programs and assistance for firefighters and their families.”) After about a decade at the department, he's turning 33 today. Aw!
Unsurprisingly, the post is gaining traction with proud Americans and “Sandlot” fanboys alike.
We couldn't get a hold of Vitar personally (probably out saving lives, or something), so we decided to just stalk him online, instead. Here, the brief life story of the star of our preteen fantasies:
1993. Vitar stars as Benny — the cool, collected leader of a motley neighborhood baseball team — in “The Sandlot.” All the girls want him, all the boys want to be him. Below: Watch the child actor hit homers, defend his nerdy friends and break hearts, without popping a sweat. (He's the hot one in the white undershirt. No pedo.)
1993-1996. Rides out his young fame with smaller parts in “Sunset Grill,” an L.A. detective story, and a couple installments of “The Mighty Ducks.” All of which have nothing on “The Sandlot,” obviously.
1997. Realizes there's a greater calling than playing the token Latino kid in coming-of-age blockbusters. Graduates from a high school La Cañada and works for an ambulance company, according to Wikipedia. More juicy details from his own MySpace profile:
Mike was born on December 21 1978 in Los Angeles, California. He started acting at the age of 12 when a casting manager spotted him in a line for a ride at a school carnival.He has an older brother Pablo, and an older sister Elizabeth.He has four Neices and one nephew.As of June 2002 he become a firefighter in Hollywood.He has done ton of commercials for different products like, Tylenol, Coca Cola, Reebok, J.C Penny, and Sprite.He has Bas knees,he had reconstructive surgey on the one knee due to extreme jogging and excercise.
Extreme jogging? What a badass. And really, the Hollywood station? How fitting.
2003. After only one year as an official 'fighter for LAFD, Vitar is honored for his role in the rescue of fellow firefighters at a house fire in the Hollywood Hills on New Year's. Two firemen from Station 35 are severely burned when the roof collpases — but thanks to Vitar and the rest of the responding task force, they make it out alive.
“I am extremely proud of the members of Truck 35,” writes LAFD Captain Joseph Castro of the rescue. “In my nearly 25 years of service with the LAFD, I have never seen a greater act of courage than they demonstrated that day.”
Swoon. Sounds like our Benny. From a fire union newsletter:
Now. Also according to Wikipedia: “He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife Kim, whom he married in 2007, and their sons Elias (born in 2007) and Wesley (born in 2009).” Surrounded by a white picket fence, no doubt. But he's seen a hero's share of tragedy, too:
His older brother, Pablo, played the older version of his character, Benny, in The Sandlot, after which he joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1996. [Ed Note: Only in L.A.!] Pablo succumbed to colon cancer on February 5, 2008.
If you really want to get your nostalgia-crush on, complete with Taylor Swift soundtrack, watch through 1:20 below:
And believe it or not, that's the least creepy of the fan vids. For the full shebang, see “Mike Vitar Dedication,” a gushing montage of cartoon hearts and high-school yearbook photos. This time, to the tune of Miley Cyrus.
To this day, though, Vitar has nothing but love for his abnormally adoring fan base.
“I would like to meet anybody and everyone who has supported me even though I've been out of the acting business for ten year now. To all the fans I have nothing but love and great respect for all of you and who knows I might one day consider acting again. SO STAY TUNED!”