Shea: Mining the minor leagues: MLB borrowing promotional ideas from farm teams

From Bill Shea at Crain’s Detroit Business on June 4, 2017:

When pitchers and catchers report for spring training, it means it won’t be long before the local ballpark sees its share of home runs, stolen bases … and Stormtroopers.

The white-clad foot soldiers of the Galactic Empire have become a staple of baseball promotions as teams across the country stage “Star Wars” nights to attract fans.

A long time ago, in a ballpark not too far away, the Lucas film-endorsed promotion was born, specifically at Fifth Third Field just north of Grand Rapids where the West Michigan Whitecaps staged what’s believed to be baseball’s first “Star Wars” night in 2005. It flopped, but the next season, after refinements and better promotion the following season, it was a wild success.

A few years later, the Detroit Tigers — the parent club of the Single-A Whitecaps — were hosting their own “Star Wars” night complete with stormtroopers, wookies, an X-Wing pilots wandering the stadium. Most Major League Baseball clubs now host “Star Wars” promotions during the season.

The promotion is an example of the sort of experimentation that goes on in baseball’s minor leagues, and is eventually borrowed by major league clubs. The farm teams basically serve as testing laboratories, R&D operations for the majors. It’s a symbiotic relationship that benefits everyone’s bottom line.

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Originally published: June 5, 2017. Last Updated: June 5, 2017.