"May the Fourth" -- as in in "May The Force" -- is an annual celebration of all things Star Wars. This year, May the Fourth falls on a Friday, creating extra incentive for teams to stage promotions in honor of America's -- and the world's -- most popular space opera.
Sixty Minor League teams will play home games on Friday, and nearly half are paying tribute to Star Wars. This edition of "Promo Preview" takes a look at some of the most notable "May the Fourth" endeavors.
Altoona Curve -- The Curve, Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, remain the only Minor League team to wear Jar-Jar Binks theme jerseys. (Those who have seen the prequels know that's for a good reason.) That bit of absurdity occurred in 2016. This time around, the on-field duds pay tribute to the utilitarian garb of Han Solo, who will have his own movie coming out later this month appropriately titled Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Clearwater Threshers -- Threshers' mascot Phinley, a shark, morphs into "Obi-Wan Phinobi" on "Star Wars Night," supplementing his beach casual wardrobe with Obi-Wan's signature robe. The first 1,000 fans in attendance receive "Phinley Costume Bobbleheads," which feature the aquatic mascot balancing a ball above his palm as if he was using The Force. Maybe he is.
Durham Bulls -- The Bulls, Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, have long been among Minor League baseball's chief Star Wars celebrants (this writer witnessed their 2016 edition, which featured "Yoda Soda" and "Vader-ade" among the concession items). This time around, they're going to the Dark Side, suiting up in Darth Vader theme jerseys. The Bulls are justifying this heel turn because they are the "Evil Empire of the International League," having won 13 division titles and five championships over the past two decades. They're complementing the Darth Vader jerseys with black hats and black pants but stopped short of adding capes because "that might make it too difficult on our players." Didn't seem to hold Vader back during that hallway scene in Rogue One, however.
Fresno Grizzlies -- There will be costumed characters throughout Fresno's Chukchansi Park. Just make sure not to contradict Darth Vader's explicit instructions regarding appropriate wardrobe choices.
Kannapolis Intimidators -- The Intimidators, Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, claim that their Star Wars fireworks will "light up the galaxy." But first, there'll be a South Atlantic League baseball game in which the team will wear "old school" Yoda jerseys. (Of course, in this case, "old school" refers to the prequels and not the original trilogy, meaning the Yoda on the Kannapolis jerseys will be the more modern CGI version rather than the original Frank Oz puppet that was again used in Episode VIII. But we digress.)
Omaha Storm Chasers -- While the Intimidators are going old school, the Storm Chasers are going new school. The Kansas City Royals Triple-A affiliate is eschewing the easy Storm Troopers reference and will take the field wearing jerseys featuring the fighter pilot aesthetic of Poe Dameron, who made his first appearance in 2015's The Force Awakens. It's enough to make you wonder what the Resistance's greatest pilot could do if he flew his X-Wing into a tornado. Best to leave that up to the imagination.
Rochester Red Wings -- Return of the Jedi turned 35 this year, and the Red Wings are commemorating the occasion by taking the field in Ewok theme jerseys. Additionally, the team is offering Star Wars ticket packs that include adjustable Red Wings-branded Star Wars caps. No word yet on whether any Rochester batters will be walking up to the Ewok celebration song "Yub Nub."
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders -- Star Wars promotions sometimes have a charitable component, most often in the form of theme jersey auctions. The RailRiders are doing that and more, going all-out on the philanthropic front as part of their "Empire Gives Back" theme. The Yankees' Triple-A affiliate has partnered with former RailRider and current Yankee Tyler Austin, who beat testicular cancer as a teenager, to raise money for the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation. The team will donate 26 percent of all walk-up ticket sales to the foundation and auction Austin-autographed baseballs every inning. Additionally, all the money raised from the evening's Darth Vader dunk tank will be donated to the foundation.