By Wil Horneff
My name is Wil Horneff. I’m a black belt in BJJ and an instructor at Training Grounds Jiu-Jitsu & MMA in Westwood, NJ. My biggest claim to fame was being the bully ‘Phillips’ in the classic film The Sandlot. At the age of 35, I can safely say that I have been told through the years that I “play ball like a girl!!!” more times than any other man alive. Unfortunately, this accusation is undeniably true. In the 8th grade, I stood an impressive four foot eleven inches tall and was always the last kid picked for teams; it just went without saying.
So it was ironic that in the Sandlot I was supposed to be a badass baseball player (and the team captain, no less).
But what’s a child actor doing talking about baseball on an MMA website? I’ll get to that in a second.
As a kid doing his first film, everything about The Sandlot was incredible and it’s hard not to look back on it with a bit of nostalgia. The lot itself was nestled behind houses in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was there for about 2 weeks for shooting and even though I had a smaller role, I hung out with the sandlot kids as one of the gang. In real life, everyone seemed pretty true to the characters they played in the film which is one of the strategies for casting kids. However, leaving the set and going back to real life was always a let down because when I left the set the real life bullying would resume.
Bullying is a hot topic nowadays. On the one hand, even the smallest slight can summon accusations of bullying, as was the case with a student who attended my Jiu-Jitsu school. The child did not want to invite a particular student to his birthday party and the uninvited child’s parents accused them of bullying their child by not inviting them. These days, bullying not only includes sins of commission but omission as well, apparently. On the other hand, you have California mayor Cameron Hamilton saying that kids who are bullied need to simply “grow a pair.” There is a ditch on either side of the road and keeping oneself on level ground is not always an easy task.