Caitlyn Wasmundt / Lantern photographer
What do Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Lonnie Chisenhall and Lou Seal of the Columbus Clippers have in common? On a normal night, absolutely nothing. But on Saturday night, the forces collided to create Star Wars Night at Huntington Park.
For more than three hours, 12,078 fans of baseball and the sci-fi movie series had a chance to pose for photos and get autographs with their favorite characters and play with plastic light sabers.
The Clippers squared off against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and fittingly, Columbus was the Rebel Legion and Scranton was the Empire. Scores of youngsters were wearing Star Wars memorabilia, boys were wearing T-shirts with Yoda and several girls were completely decked out as Princess Leia. Even some adults got into the act.
John Jordan, who brought his 6-year-old son, Gavin Jordan, and 4-year-old nephew, Ian Harold, said the night was a nice combination given that he grew up as a Star Wars and Clippers fan. He wore a brown, Jedi robe while Gavin Jordan got into a head-to-toe General Grievous outfit and Harold dressed as a Jedi knight.
Matt Petti, an OSU alumnus who was at Star Wars Night celebrating his birthday with a group of friends, said it was a cool way to spend his special day.
“I saw some kids walking around in their stormtrooper outfits. Adorable,” Petti said. “Just adorable kids.”
Skywalker attempted to throw the game’s first pitch, but his father, Darth Vader, stepped in, “chopped off” his hand and proceeded to throw the pitch amid a mix of jeers and cheers.
Brian Pauley, portrayed Skywalker and is the event coordinator for the 501st Legion and executive director for the Rebel Legion, organizations whose members make public appearances as Star Wars characters. Pauley has done a number of events around the state but said this event was special because it was only his second baseball game. His first baseball game was with the Akron Aeros.
“It’s been cool. If they want us back, we’ll be back,” Pauley said.
The group works completely pro bono and members are responsible for buying and putting together their own outfits. The brother-and-sister duo of Geoff and Emily Krickhan came as fighter pilots from “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.”
“We’re just fans,” Geoff Krickhan said. “A lot of times people will ask if we’re actors, but we’re just a group of people who love Star Wars and doing stuff within our community.”
The group worked the stadium throughout the entire game, walking through the concourse and joining the Clippers for the various activities in between innings.
The hot dog race after the bottom of the sixth inning went a little differently Saturday night. Normally, three people dress up in hot dog uniforms and race from the bullpen to home plate along the right field wall, but this time, the race had extra competitors. As the hot dogs passed first base, they ran over to Jar Jar Binks and beat him down with their light sabers. But as they approached home plate, Darth Vader stood in their way and flew them to the ground using “The Force.”
They also took part in the Wendy’s “Who Am I” contest after the eighth inning, where one individual wins a prize if they can guess the clues on the scoreboard. As competitors stood on the visitors’ dugout, Casey Siegert, another OSU graduate, got the right answer (Chewbacca) after shouts from the crowd urged him on.
“I have been born and raised a Star Wars fan,” Siegert said, adding that he and his roommates at OSU would stay up late and watch all six episodes in one night.
The end of the game was capped off with a five-minute fireworks display where the public address announcer asked everyone with a light saber to “light up” as the stadium went dark and the Star Wars theme song began to pump over the speakers throughout the stadium.
“When they turned off the lights … and everybody’s sabers were glowing, it gave me chills. I loved it,” said Deanna Ockunzzi, who was visiting from Cleveland for her friend’s birthday.
Ultimately, though, The Force wasn’t with the Clippers on this night. They gave up three runs in the top of the ninth and lost 8-6.