The Sandlot to Struggle to Stardom

Omar Kenneth Esmaeel, known professionally as Marty York, was born August 23, 1980, in Auburn, California to Deanna and Sam Esmaeel. York’s mother ran an equestrian dressage school and York’s father owned a Greek restaurant. As a child, York was involved in many theater productions at a local theater company, including Snow White and The Seven Dwarves, Rotten Ruck in Red Rock and Cheaper by the Dozen. The owner of the theater company immediately noticed York’s natural comedic ability and acting chops at a very young age and advised his mother to take him to Hollywood to give acting a shot.

York’s parents divorced when he was 10 years old, and his mom eventually moved him to Los Angeles and left his two sisters with his grandma in Northern California till she could find a stable place to live. While looking for a place to live, his mom enrolled him in Catholic school and at the same time, she met a man who was one of the founding members, Donny York, of the 50’s doo-wop band, Sha Na Na, who would eventually become his stepdad. York’s aunt was out in Los Angeles at the time working for an extra’s casting agency and she recommended York’s mom get him an agent. He was then pointed towards Media Artists group who saw his acting ability and signed him on the spot. His first audition would be for a Colgate toothpaste commercial where he would have to dance with a little girl. He was so scared with all the lights and cameras in the audition room, he hid behind the chair, but eventually came out and danced with the little girl that was also auditioning and nailed the part! The casting directors liked him so much they called him back without even auditioning to play a little Italian kid playing botchy ball in a Ragu spaghetti sauce commercial. After that, it was not smooth sailing. York’s mom struggled financially often renting out 1 room in someone’s house where York slept on the floor.

York’s mother and stepdad eventually moved into a house together, and brought his 2 sisters up from Sacramento, so the family could be together again. At this time, York auditioned for a movie that would change his life__The Sandlot. The audition process was not easy. York originally auditioned for the role of “Bertram” who didn’t fit York’s physical characteristics, but the casting directors liked him so much and gave him a callback. He read again (this time another scene) and received yet another callback, where he saw thousands of kids who looked similar to him. His mom then received a call saying he had gotten the part of “Bertram”. She broke down crying__they had moved out to Los Angeles from a small town, left everything they’ve known, struggled financially, and now York had made it. It was at this point, the boys that were chosen so far needed to report to the baseball field to start practicing. While York was on the field learning the ins and outs of baseball, one of the producers of the film came on the field and told York’s mom there was an issue and they needed to talk. They didn’t feel York had the look of the character, “Bertram”, but they had good news that there was another role in the film who had a bigger part named Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan. They wanted him to read for that role, but said, “He needs to bring a ton of energy!” Before the audition, York’s mom gave him a Hershey’s bar to give him a sugar rush, he went in and got a standing ovation from the directors! From that point on, York embodied the character of “Yeah- Yeah”.

After the film, York returned to school as the movie was shot over the summer of 1992. At the age of 12, York had starred in 2 national commercials and what is now known as one of the most famous baseball movies in American history. Following the success of The Sandlot, York appeared in guest starring roles in some of the most famous sitcoms of the 90’s, including Saved by The Bell, a recurring role on Boy Meets World, Wings, Sliders, and voiced many iconic 90’s cartoons like Hey Arnold and Duckman. York’s career continued to rise, but he was getting worn out having to balance school and acting, and it eventually took a toll that nearly took his life.

On the way to an audition from school in June of 1997, York had just recently got his driver’s license and was driving to an audition when he fell asleep at the wheel on a 2-lane road near his house. York’s Geo Metro slammed head-on at 60 mph with a Ford Mustang and the impact forced the engine in his tiny car to shatter his legs. York was airlifted to Olive View hospital where the prognosis wasn’t good. His mother rushed to the hospital and his father was told to come immediately as the doctors said there was a good chance he wouldn’t make it through the night. Because of the massive impact, York had significant blood loss which required immediate blood transfusions to keep him alive. A priest joined the family and prayed with them that he would make it through the night. He had also suffered a shattered femur, a broken right hip, severe nerve damage to his right ankle and a concussion so bad that he was left in a coma for 3 days. He eventually awoke but learned he would need multiple surgeries so they could save his leg from being amputated, as well as years of physical therapy. York’s legs had atrophied from being bedridden for the lengthy period, so he relearned how to walk again. After about 2 years, York had somewhat recovered, but his career would never be the same again.

York would, at this point, learn the downside of Hollywood with the old adage, “What have you done for me lately?” From the time of his accident to recovery, it took him a little over three years. Hollywood did not care__they had moved on__and he had a tough time finding an agent. It was at this point, he decided to leave the game and go back to school to get a college degree. He couldn’t figure out what he wanted to do (go to law school or become a teacher) and, at this time, the internet was just being born for commercial use, York saw an article online about one of his old castmates, Mike Vitar, “Benny the Jet” becoming a firefighter, so he decided to go to school for that. He passed all the classes, even the EMT course, but when he took the CPAT (Certified Physical Ability Test), he found it extremely difficult with the damage he endured from the car accident. He felt hopeless and decided to return to school and try another route. At this time, he saw a magician in Venice Beach performing some tricks and was intrigued to learn Sleight of Hand. He joined the Magic Castle in Hollywood and started performing for crowds. Also, during this time, York met a girl, who became his assistant, and she moved in with him at his mom’s house. He started noticing his mother becoming distant from the family, she would fight with his stepdad and leave for weeks sometimes. The constant fighting in his family caused York to have a rocky relationship with his then-girlfriend, and up until then, York had never questioned what happened to all his acting money. He then found a notice in the mail about a joint account his mother had started, linked to him with thousands of dollars in his name, that she was hiding. He immediately had his lawyer freeze the account. When his mother found out, she broke down his door and kicked him out.

From that point on, York moved from one place to another, sleeping on couches or his car and doing Sleight of Hand at restaurants to afford minimal food. Also, his then-girlfriend had broken up with him. He later found out she was dating another guy. Without money for food or a solid place to live and no home, York’s life was spiraling out of control. During this time, he sat in his car on Thanksgiving day with no home or family and watched another family celebrate Thanksgiving through a window he broke down. He realized that no one was coming to his rescue and he had to take his life back on his own. He remembered some of the weight training he learned from his physical therapist after his car accident, so he strolled into a gym with no money and told the person at the front desk who he was, and they let him train for free. He had no idea what he was doing until he met a guy that started teaching him about nutrition and form. He then got hired at a local mortgage company as a loan officer and was able to afford food and a place to live.He started building muscle and things started changing in his life. York trained 4 days a week and ate every chance he got__mostly a protein-based diet from steak and potatoes to bulk up. He still yearned to have his family back and he went to arbitration with his mom to recover his acting money and repair the broken relationship. After it was over, York held his mom and cried.

York felt blessed to have his mom back in his life, but now had a distrust for women after finding out his mom had stolen from him. For many years thereafter, he got caught up in the Hollywood nightlife drinking and partying almost nightly. while still trying to juggle going to the gym, He then met another girl, who eventually became his girlfriend, and they started going down a rocky path as well, drinking nightly. One night, there was an altercation at a Hollywood nightclub, where another girl York knew came up and gave him a kiss on the cheek, which led to his girlfriend at the time, attacking the girl. The bouncer asked York and his girl to leave. As they drove home on the 101 freeway, his girlfriend__who was drunk and angry__struck him in the face with her high heel shoe multiple times accusing him of cheating, which led to him almost swerving into another car on the freeway. Fearing for his life, York struck her back. When they got home, she started yelling at the top of her lungs, cussing him out at 2 in the morning. The next-door neighbors heard the commotion and called the cops, but when they showed up, they deemed York as the aggressor, even though his then-girlfriend told the cops how she was hitting him in the car.

After the arrest, York would make media headlines on numerous satire websites like TMZ for weeks to come and, at this point, he realized he did not want to leave this kind of legacy or life anymore. York decided to leave the “party friends and girlfriends” lifestyle and soon met a girl who would change his life for the better. He had never been a follower of God or even understood the Bible, but his new girlfriend would teach him, and they started attending church regularly together. York also regularly attends the gym 3-4 days a week eating healthier and training harder. In 2013, York celebrated the 20th anniversary of The Sandlot by traveling back to Glendale, Utah, where he Sandlot still exists, and where they aired the movie on the field with thousands of fans showing up. He also traveled to numerous baseball stadiums all over the U.S. In the same year, York made a resurgence in his career by shooting 3 national commercials including a Tecate beer commercial, a 7up commercial with Chelsea Handler, and an Old Spice commercial which he starred in (Youtube- Executive Spray Tan Parties).

In 2017, York’s 26-year-old sister passed away from a long-time heroin addiction. He now speaks at sober living homes to help the youth overcome opioid addiction and show them the devastating effects it can have on families. York continues to act and model, and is an advocate for health and fitness. In 2018, York will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Sandlot and has signed with a promoter traveling to Comic Cons and sports memorabilia shows signing autographs across the USA.

Marty York is a living testament to the old saying, “Never give up” and “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” At 37 years old, he has lived a life well beyond his years, but he has stated the best is yet to come!

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