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Opinion >  Column

Rob Curley: Baseball, ‘Star Wars’ go glove in hand

UPDATED: Sun., June 18, 2017

Otto Klein never forgot what it was like when his dad took him to see “Star Wars” in 1977. It left a huge impression on him.

He now has his own children, and he’s taken them to see the latest editions of the space-based Western.

As a longtime leader in the Spokane Indians baseball team’s front office, the senior vice president has a pretty good idea when something is as American as apple pie. Or Father’s Day.

Sunday was “Luke, I Am Your Father’s Day” at Avista Stadium. It followed Saturday’s Star Wars Night at the park.

The place was crawling with bounty hunters and Jawas on both days. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than at the games.

It was perfect. And packed … as in less than 100 people from a sellout on Saturday. Sunday’s crowd was almost 1,000 more than expected.

Anyone who thinks science fiction and baseball don’t mix hasn’t been paying attention. Box scores, Boba Fett, bats and blasters were practically made for each other.

And the Indians aren’t the only ones looking to Obi-Wan Kenobi and Princess Leia for some help with the Force. The majority of the minor league teams across the country will have stormtroopers roaming their stadiums this year, as well as 21 of the 30 major league baseball teams.

Even the Mariners. Seattle held its Star Wars Night back in May. It’s now an annual event.

“People really love coming to a ‘Star Wars’-themed game,” Klein said Sunday as he watched as the stadium cheered each appearance by a character from the movies. Kids, some under age 10 and others over age 30, dressed in Jedi robes. Others wore “Star Wars” team jerseys from years past.

All of them wanted their photo taken with Chewbacca.

On Saturday, Darth Vader threw out the first pitch at Avista. Complete with his own theme music. The national anthem was played on trumpet by Eric Moe. He was dressed as Han Solo. And it ended with a few bars of the iconic “Star Wars” theme.

The main concourse was filled with the characters many of us grew up with. And all of them were game for selfies.

There was “Star Wars” trivia in between innings.

And, of course, there was a team store loaded with lightsabers, as well as shirts and caps that seamlessly brought together AT-ATs with bat-bats. With the team’s logo right there.

But the star of the weekend was the Indians’ custom jerseys for the games. They featured Spokane’s iconic Salish name on the front, along with Han Solo. The back of the jerseys had the players’ numbers sitting on top of a silhouette of the Millennium Falcon.

“The players love this because they love wearing unique uniforms,” Klein explained. “It’s cool to wear something different than just the standard uniform.”

The fans want to wear them, too.

The jerseys are being auctioned off to benefit the Mark Rypien Foundation. The silent auction began this weekend and will continue this week online on the Indians’ website.

Klein said the minimum bids are $100, but he said the team expects some of the jerseys to go for as much as $500.

Why so much?

“People will pay that much because they’re so unique and they know the money goes to such a good cause,” Klein said.

But it’s something more than that.

“If you love baseball, you can lose yourself in a game and escape the moment,” he said. “ ‘Star Wars’ is like that, too. When you combine the two things, it’s powerful and fun.”

Because they’re both filled with the Force.

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