Monday, August 21, 2006

A night with the Evil Empire

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.


mike said...

The Copiague All Weather Drive in Theater. Now that brings back memories. We lost the last drive in on LI two years ago when Westbury closed. I'm glad tht two of my kids got to experience it. Do you remember the Jerry Lewis Movie Theater Dave? It was next to Sears on Sunrise Highway. MAy the force be with you.

John Murray said...

That is too cool…. If the Jupiter Hammer Heads had a Star Wars night I would go to the game.. I would even go in my Jango Fett amour. See my Myspace page for pictures…

Toasty Joe said...

Nice, but one question - is your kid wearing a #51 Randy Johnson jersey? What's that all about??

Mets Guy in Michigan said...


My son started following the Diamondbacks after he bought the MLB Slugfest game for PlayStation2 and used that team to repeatedly pummel me, since I was using Mets and the game is based on the 2002 stats. Because, when you are 11 and can beat your dad at something, it's all good. Then we found the authentic PB jersey on sale in the mall. I try to get him to wear his Mets gear, but he'd rather show up the old man and remind me of my defeats.

By the way, the new version of the game is using 2006 players, and I'm finally kicking some but -- and he doesn't want to play!

Toasty Joe said...

By the way, interesting coincidence that you and I post posted recaps today of our attendence at minor league games.

Sunshine Sis said...

I remember the Jerry Lewis Theater well, its where I saw Star Wars and raiders of the Lost Ark.