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23 July 2017

Star Wars Night at Coors Field
Darth Vader awaits the arrival of the Umpire. Get it?


Theme nights — an expansion of the simple giveaway concepts of baseball cap night or bobblehead day — have always had their place during the baseball season, but theme nights are all the rage now more than ever.

Coors Field hosted the fourth annual Star Wars Night last night and it was quite a treat. Only two weeks earlier, it was Marvel Night and the results were disappointing.

There's also Yoga Day, which Coors Field has managed to twist into something more awkward than the Utkatasana. Arrive at 8:30 in the morning for yoga, then come back in the evening for the game's 6:10 first pitch. Huh? The Dodgers knocked it out of the park when I attended their version a couple years ago. Enjoy the game, then queue up at a designated spot after the game to receive a Dodgers-branded yoga mat and step onto the field for a yoga session. It was great.

Cincinnati Reds Game of Thrones bobblehead
Game of Thrones bobblehead
Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies Adam Ottavino bobblehead
The Jedi Ottavino bobblehead
Photo taken with iPhone 7 Plus
Colorado Rockies Jedi Knight T-Shirt Jersey
The Rockies Jedi jersey T-shirt
Photo taken with iPhone 7 Plus

Elsewhere, some parks this year have started offering Game of Thrones night. There are university nights, college student nights, bark at the park nights (bring yer dog to the game) and on and on and on.

With Cinicinnati's Game of Thrones Night, I'm wondering if theme nights are reaching an inflection point. There'll be an Iron Throne photo opp — with a priority access line available to those who buy into the Thrones ticket package. The deal also includes an exclusive bobblehead, one that apparently won't be given out to attendees in general. The bobblehead features a dragon perched on top of a baseball with the GoT and Reds logos. Hmmm...

It reminds me of Marvel Night's bobblehead on 8 July. It was of a purple Iron Man standing on top of a similar half-baseball base.

The question becomes: What's being marketed? The extracurricular activity or baseball?

I remember a baseball cap night years ago at Coors Field that was ludicrous. The cap was emblazoned with the logo of a major American brewery (as a hint, it was not Coors, so that doesn't leave many others to consider). The Rockies? Not a mention. So instead of a Rockies cap sponsored by this beer label, it was a beer cap passed out at the ball game. If I'm not mistaken, the Rockies realized the goof — after the fact and after complaints — and took steps to ensure it didn't happen again.

But maybe merchandising and commercialism are catching up with baseball.

At least Star Wars Night — so far — has found a highly entertaining balance.

Yep. That's a sound bite from the upcoming movie The Last Jedi during a super-slick video right before the game starts, as part of a thematic merging of Star Wars and baseball — "Breathe. Just... breathe."

And the T-shirts given out in special ticketing packages are a good deal — trumpeting Star Wars Night on the back and a Star Wars character on the front (this time, Darth Vader).

Also, each year the bobblehead has been a perfect merging of art and sport: This year, pitcher Adam Ottavino is presented as a Jedi, sporting a Rockies baseball cap and wearing an outfit much like Obi-Wan's, with a baseball in one hand and a Force posture with the other hand.

Great stuff.

And now theme night merchandising has entered the Rockies stores. For sale were new T-shirts looking much like the typical player jersey T-shirts, but with a noticeable difference on the back. One is "Skywalker, '77." There were similar shirts sporting "Solo" and "Vader." Clever. But a little off in the execution.

Drop the apostrophe; just make it player number 77 instead of referencing the abbreviation for 1977, the year Star Wars first hit theatres. Make it a seamless (no pun intended) integration of fantasy and reality (something Disney's also toying with in Animal Kingdom with the new Pandora rides and related merchandising).

Another T-shirt featured a better design — mimicking the stitching effect of the more expensive jerseys while brandishing the name "Jedi Knight" on the back. Above it, the logo of the Jedi Order and below it, the number 0 (why not 77?). If the other player jersey T's were similarly styled, they'd be an even bigger hit, taken right outta the park on fans' backs and in their shopping bags.

Sometimes it's a mystery how marketers and merchandisers don't take that one last step to a fully-realized vision.

Star Wars Night at Coors Field
To all the people I heard call these guys "sand people," they're Jawas. They. Are. Jawaaaaaas!

Star Wars Night at Coors Field
Loads of characters, representing the live-action cinematic adventures (including Rogue One) plus the animated fare, were on hand for photo opps throughout the park.

Star Wars Night at Coors Field

Star Wars Night at Coors Field

Star Wars Night at Coors Field

Star Wars Night at Coors Field

Star Wars Night at Coors Field

Star Wars Night at Coors Field

Star Wars Night at Coors Field
Watching the stormtroopers help the kid adjust his mask was pretty funny.

Star Wars Night at Coors Field
Awesome humor. Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired from the standalone Han Solo movie a few weeks ago. Ron Howard took over as director. Similarly, during the "Welcome" messages, this one appeared: "TK-421, why aren't you at your post?" Uh. That's a quote from Episode IV.

Star Wars Night at Coors Field
Dinger confronts the Dark Side.

Star Wars Night at Coors Field
On the field, there's a baseball game going on. Charlie Blackmon watches intently while manager Bud Black holds onto his head.

Star Wars Night at Coors Field
As in previous years, the opposing team is pictured as evil characters or stormtroopers, all of whom are wearing masks. The Rox are portrayed as Jedi Knights, Rebel soldiers or rogues like Han Solo and Lando Calrissian.

Star Wars Night at Coors Field
Yoda says, "Make noise, you will!"

Star Wars Night at Coors Field
Tonight, the Force was with the Rebels. Rox beat the Bucs 7-3.


8 July: Marvel Night

For some reason, Disney's Marvel Night at Coors Field wasn't on par with Disney's Star Wars Night. It was the first time a Marvel Night was held, but Star Wars should've paved the way for doing it right the first time.

For one thing, there was a disappointing lack of characters around the park. Spider-Man was probably the best, but both Captain America and Black Widow could stand to lose some weight.

The night also lacked the integration of screen graphics; the player stat screens simply had a more colorful, comic book-ish background. At least some cutesy messages to characters such as Jessica Jones were slipped into the "Welcome" screens.

Marvel Night at Coors Field

Marvel Night at Coors Field

Marvel Night at Coors Field
Okay. Cap saluting the American flag was cool.

Marvel Night at Coors Field

Marvel Night at Coors Field
The game was hampered by some terrible calls by the umpire.

Marvel Night at Coors Field
Both Blackmon and Black were thrown out in the bottom of the ninth. The Rox lost to the White Sox, 5-4. Somehow, #34, Sam Holbrook got to keep his job, though.

All photos taken with the Sony A6300, except where noted.


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