Michael Anthony "Mike" Vitar is a former child actor from America. He had famously appeared as Benjamin Franklin "Benny the Jet" Rodriguez in the film ‘The Sandlot’ (1993) and as Luis Mendoza in the movies ‘D2: The Mighty Ducks’ (1994) and ‘D3: The Mighty Ducks’ (1996). The 1990s was a busy decade for child actors. There were enough roles to go around and enough overeager parents to thrust their children into the turbulence of celebrityhood and the constant scrutiny that comes with it. However, only a few of these popular child actors were able to make the smooth and successful transition into celebrity adulthood. While many others just gave themselves away to alcohol and drugs, a few sought out different roads for themselves, finding happiness away from the spotlight. Vitar falls in the last category. Starting his acting career at 12 and ending it at 19, he is a fire-fighter now and a respectable member of his community in Hollywood.
When he was 12, Mike Vitar was spotted by a casting manager in a line for a ride at a school carnival. In 1991, he made his debut as Arturo in Peter Maris’ action thriller ‘Diplomatic Immunity’. In the same year, he debuted on television as well, portraying the character Anthony Gambuzza, in the episode ‘Boys of Summer’ of ‘Brooklyn Bridge’, a CBS family drama about a Jewish American family living in Brooklyn in the 1950s.
He worked with Peter Weller in the 1993 neo-noir mystery film ‘Sunset Grill’. Set in Los Angeles, the movie depicts a police-officer-turned-private-investigator trying to uncover a mystery involving illegal immigrants from Mexico.
The movie ‘The Sandlot’ (1993) came right after. Leading a cast of primarily adolescent actors, Vitar simply shone as the kind, generous, and talented Benjamin Franklin "Benny the Jet" Rodriguez. The film not only received positive reviews from the critics but also grossed $33 million at the box-office. The ageless plot of underdogs triumphing over insurmountable odds combined with likeable characters has ensured the movie’s cult status.
While Vitar wasn’t part of the original ‘Mighty Duck’ film in 1992, his acting in ‘The Sandlot’ convinced the makers of the first sequel ‘D2: The Mighty Ducks’ to cast him as Luis Mendoza, jersey #22. Despite garnering poor reviews, the film managed to earn $45.6 million at the box-office. He reprised the role in 1996’s ‘D3: The Mighty Ducks’, the third film in the trilogy. Over the last 21 years, these films have become cult classics as well.
He made guest appearances in ABC’s ‘NYPD Blue’ (1996) and CBS’ ‘Chicago Hope’ (1997) before announcing his retirement from acting in 1997.
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Controversies & Scandals
On Halloween night 2015, Vitar, along with another off-duty fireman, Eric Carpenter, and a third man, Thomas Molnar, allegedly beat up 22-year-old Samuel Chang for “handing out candies to children”. They broke Chang’s jaw and left him in a coma with severe brain damage while accusing him of being a paedophile. In December, both Vitar and Molnar were charged with one count of 'assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury' while Carpenter faced 'personally inflicting great bodily injury on the victim' charges. Though initially Vitar was facing a possible four-year sentence, he managed to escape imprisonment and instead had to pay US$ 2,000 to Chang and was suspended from work for six months without pay.
Born on December 21, 1978, in Los Angeles, California, Mike Vitar is of Latin descent. He is the youngest of three children. His older brother, Pablo, who portrayed the older version of Benny in ‘The Sandlot’, became a Los Angeles police officer in 1996. He was diagnosed with colon cancer and passed away on January 29, 2008. His older sister’s name is Elizabeth.
He studied at St. Francis High School in La Cañada, California, graduating in 1997. Employed at Gerber Ambulance in Torrance since 1996, he used the experience as a stepping stone into his current profession as a fire-fighter. In June 2002, he joined the Los Angeles Fire Department.
He married his wife, Kym Allen, in 2006 and they have three children together, two sons and a daughter. The family presently lives in Los Angeles.
Vitar had to undergo reconstructive surgery on one knee due to extreme jogging and exercise.