Distraught that I couldn’t attend – or even watch – the 20th anniversary celebration of the 1986 champions, I decided to pack up the kids and go see the Evil Empire at a different ball game.
No, not the Red Sox tanking against the Yankees. I mean the real Evil Empire. Our local team, the West Michigan Whitecaps, held “Star Wars” night at the ballpark.
The Midwest League affiliate of the Tigers promised plenty of people walking around in quality costumes and a showing of the movie on the scoreboard after the game. I pulled my classic Darth Maul T-shirt out of the reaches of the closet, much to the embarrassment of my 14-year-old.
Yes, I fall squarely into the Star Wars camp when the Trek vs Wars debates break out.
Now I’ve often said that one of the joys of the minor leagues is that games are so affordable that people can bring the whole family. And the downside is that people actually do bring the whole family.
My kids are trained properly. They know, for instance, not to yell “balk” when the pitcher fakes a pickoff throw to second.
But other kids aren’t as easy to deal with. A boy in front of me decided to use his gift shop mini-bat as a light saber the whole night, so I spent half the night dodging it. But that wasn’t as bad as when he learned he could stick the bat into his foamy finger to lift it even higher, blocking my view of the mound.
Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to have those blue lightening things that shoot out of the Emperor’s fingers.
The Whitecaps do a good job with their promotions, so there were plenty of Star Wars activities.
Apparently there is some club, The Midwest Garrison, of people from Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, who like to dress up like Stormtroopers and other characters and offer themselves to charities.
I’d say that’s goofy, but I suspect they’d see my jersey collection and think the same thing. And their costumes were never worn by Mel Rojas.
They were posing with people who contributed a couple bucks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a worthy cause to be sure.
So when it came time for the ceremonial first pitch, a whole squadron of Stormtroopers escorted Darth Jeter, er, Vader, on to the field for the official duties.
The Stormtroopers got involved in all the between-inning activities, too. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the warriors of the Empire performing the “Chicken Dance” on the dugout roof.
The game was a fine pitchers’ duel, with the Lansing Lugnuts outlasting the Caps 3-0. Cameron Maybin, one of the Tigers’ top prospects, is hitting .324 but did nothing at the plate. However, he put on a clinic in centerfield.
A fireworks show followed the game, then fans were invited to come out into the middle of leftfield to watch the movie.
I tried explaining to the kids that this was like a drive-in movie used to be like, and offered tales from my youth of getting big bags of White Castles and parking on the street alongside the All-Weather Drive-in Copaigue to watch the movies – but not hear them especially well.
It was well after midnight when the Death Star met its end, with the nine-year-old barely awake and a good time had by all.