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Star of 'The Sandlot,' now Brandon pizzeria owner, still beams about role

BRANDON

More than 20 years had passed since Shane Obedzinski first stepped foot on the baseball field where he filmed the movie The Sandlot. • He turned 10 on the set, and had no concept of what a success the movie would become. But when the 31-year-old Brandon man returned to Salt Lake City this summer for the 20th anniversary of the kids' baseball film, it was as if nothing had changed. • "The field looked just like it did 20 years ago," Obedzinski said while sitting at a table at New York Times Square Pizza, the restaurant he co-owns in Brandon. "We knew we had made a cool movie, but we didn't know it would have this lasting power."

In honor of the 20th anniversary, Obedzinski took to the road with cast members and director, writer and narrator David Mickey Evans and made stops in Florida, Georgia, Texas, California and Utah.

"Utah for me and the other boys was the most personal one," said Obedzinski who played Tommy "Repeat" "The people there, they embrace the move unbelievably. It sounds crazy, but people were scalping tickets and camping out."

Though Obedzinski's acting career mostly tapered off after the film, he said he's often approached by fans, even decades later.

"When I got a phone call for the twentieth anniversary, going out there and seeing it again, it was definitely a jolt," Obedzinksi said. "But it never really left me."

Obedzinski's first gig was in a national Kool-Aid commercial when he was three years old. Several years later, he had a role alongside Macaulay Culkin in My Girl, before auditioning in Orlando at age 9 for The Sandlot.

"He had the curly hair and the freckles, and he would do voices and imitations of other people as he got a little older," his mom, Peggy Lawson, said. "I knew there was just something special about him."

Obedzinski returned to Brandon after filming the movie and graduated from Bloomingdale High School. He spent the next few years working at different restaurants and touring with a local band before meeting Charlie Jonathan, the other co-owner of New York Times Square Pizza.

Between the two of them, they have opened more than 30 different restaurants, Jonathan said. The two met working together at a pizzeria when Jonathan moved down from Philadelphia in 1999. After that, they tried their hand at a variety of different restaurants, including pizza places, catering companies, bars and a Beef 'O' Brady's, before settling into their groove at New York Times Square Pizza.

"I'm so proud of him. He is such a hard worker. I couldn't be more pleased about how my son has grown up and developed into a young man," Lawson said. "And I have free pizza for life."

Obedzinksi and Jonathan are planning on expanding within the next year, changing the store around to feature a bigger dinning room and also acquiring a beer and wine license. The new atmosphere, which Obedzinski equates to a Tijuana Flats sort of vibe, will also highlight chefs coming out in the crowd and tossing the dough in the air.

"Some of us are pretty talented at it," Jonathan said.

Over the years, Obedzinksi has begun to open up more about his role in the hit '90s films. He still gets fan mail and requests for autographs.

"He's very down to earth about it," Jonathan said. "Kids come in with the DVD now, before it was VHS, and he signs them. He'll sit and talk with every one of them."

In addition to expanding the pizzeria, Obedzinski said he'd also be interested in taking on a few new acting roles. If he had his pick of scripts, he would likely pick something in the fantasy or science-fiction genres.

"I'm short enough to be a hobbit, so I think they really missed out on that," Obedzinksi said. "But I'm open for anything."

Caitlin Johnston may be reached at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443.

New York Times Square Pizza is located at 927 E Bloomingdale Ave.

Star of 'The Sandlot,' now Brandon pizzeria owner, still beams about role 11/27/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 5:06pm]
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