Bisons Star Wars Night: Good Times for a Great Cause

Written By:  •  Monday, July 8, 2013

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of being invited to make the 2-hour trek down the QEW and see the International League’s Buffalo Bisons host the Durham Bulls for their annual Star Wars promotion.  Now, admittedly, I’m not much of a Star Wars fan but I figured with the team wearing special uniforms and Jose Reyes playing a rehab stint there, sounded like the perfect opportunity to catch a game.

Jose Reyes, on a rehab stint, wearing the Buffalo Bisons Star Wars uniforms with Toronto Blue Jays helmet and pants on June 22, 2013

The Bisons have been holding an annual Star Wars night for six years now and the event has increased in popularity with each passing season, having added scripted video sequences involving Bisons staff acting out an entire custom movie storyline and players wearing special uniforms.  This year’s event was the first time during the 2013 season in which the Bisons played to a sold-out crowd at Coca-Cola Field – and it all started because one Bisons employee is a hardcore Star Wars fan…

“We’re always thinking of events we’re personally passionate about and ways to make it work with the baseball atmosphere”, recalled Anthony Sprague, the Bisons director of sales, a self-described “lifelong Star Wars fan”.  “We met with some of the local Star Wars groups and started spitballing ideas with them, it was such a small thing at the time but it just continued to grow and grow each year”

Fireworks fly as a Star Wars themed swordfight happens on-field after the game between the Buffalo Bisons and Durham Bulls at Coca-Cola Field on June 22, 2013

The Bisons may not have been the first to incorporate Star Wars into the ballpark experience (that honour belongs to the West Michigan Whitecaps, who held their 7th annual event yesterday), but they’ve certainly been the ones to bring the idea to the mainstream.  In the past two seasons alone fellow AAA clubs in Rochester, Omaha, and Toledo have held promotional nights in which their players wear Star Wars themed uniforms.

Darth Vader leads the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th Inning Stretch

“Fans have really grabbed onto this idea, when we put tickets on sale in March our Star Wars Night now rivals Opening Day and July 3rd as the most popular events of the season.  The fans are great and it shows that the work that goes into it — the script, the costumes, changing jerseys every year, getting the support of local Star Wars fanclubs like The North Ridge, The 501st, and the support from Lucasfilm — has all been worth it.” – Sprague

That’s right, Lucasfilm is on board with the Bisons and their Star Wars nights, their only stipulation was that any profit made from the promotion go to the American Heart Association – something the Bisons were more than happy to do.

“They’ve been fantastic, very good to work with.  We like to work with them to help promote their brand the way they want to and to be as authentic as possible.” – Brad Bisbing, Bisons Director of PR

Auctioned game-worn jerseys, ticket packs involving this game, lazer swords, t-shirts featuring the Bisons Star Wars logo… All of the money generated through the sale of those items went directly to the AHA, “without question the most successful year ever” for money raised toward the American Heart Association.

Buffalo’s Anthony Gose wearing the special Star Wars themed jerseys

As for the jerseys, I mean that’s why you’re all here, the Bisons worked with the local Lucasfilm groups on the uniforms and the special logos used by the club.

“We worked hand-in-hand with them, it allows us to be authentic and introduce our own custom logos, makes it a little more official than the other Star Wars nights throughout the league”, said Bisbing.

The custom Bisons Star Wars logo worn on the chest of all player jerseys on June 22

The custom logo, which was worn on the special uniforms the club wore that night, features the Bisons new 2013 primary logo but with the Imperial Death Star replacing the baseball in the back, and with Buster wearing a Jedi robe while wielding a Lightsabre.

For the uniforms, red with the custom Bisons Star Wars logo on the chest, the Empire logo on the back – no player numbers.  Wait, no player numbers?  That can’t be legal can it?  Well no, it isn’t.

“We had to get permission from International League President Randy Mobley to go ahead and have no number on back, we had to add a number on the sleeve and lower right of front, but only for the one day”, Bisbing told us.

No player numbers on the back, just the Empire logo, special permission required from the league to make this happen

What’s next for the promotion? They’ll start planning the 2014 event next month, but they’d like to get special Star Wars caps to go along with the uniform.  No additional movie themed events are in the works but they’re open to all ideas especially after how successful this has been.

“Movies are cross-generational, like Minor League Baseball”, said Bisbing, “You come to a game here and there’s something for everyone, there’s the ballgame for the adults, the mascot for the kids,  dancing, promotions, something for fans of all ages.  We always like to talk about now we’ve been in this park for 25 years, you were here back then as a young kid when this park first opened and now you’re bringing your children to the park… same with Star Wars with the prequels, the video games, the cartoons.  As a young adult you enjoyed it, now your kids do, just like Minor League Baseball.  I think just as many adults dressed up in Star Wars costumes as kids did this year, just as many were posing with the characters.  I really think that’s what makes this event so successful at this level.”

You can’t argue with what Mr. Bisbing says: The results are right there in the stands, in the money raised for the AHA and the smiles in the stands across the faces of fans of all ages.

It was absolutely fantastic to be a witness to the event and I’d like to thank the Buffalo Bisons staff for their time and hospitality during my weekend in the city.  I may not have yet been converted to the Star Wars franchise but I’m certainly much more of a Bisons fan now.

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Chris Creamer

Chris Creamer is the founder of SportsLogos.Net and has been maintaining it since June 1997. You can follow him on Twitter at @sportslogosnet or contact him via email at ccreamer@sportslogos.net

  • Elijah Summerdrum

    I saw Anthony Gose when he was in AA!

  • Chris Oglesby

    Star wars themed nights are always my favorite

  • Dennis Andersen

    Matt Morse

  • annonimous

    I was there too
    i told you on twitter

  • James Misercola

    Let’s Go Buffalo!!! I love the Bisons!!

  • ingmar66

    This is very cool indeed, though I am not a Star Wars fan at all. The logos, singing with Darth Vader, the light sabres. And all for a good cause. Thumbs up for the Bisons!

  • Kevin Mora

    I went to the sunday game in buffalo with jose reyes in it

  • Jack

    May the force be with you.