It was Star Wars Night Friday at Yankee Stadium, and there was a problem. Darth Vader, because of a licensing agreement, wasn't allowed to throw out the first pitch.
Debbie Tymon, the senior vice president for the Yankees, had an idea. Years ago, before a game would start, they'd go out and find a little kid from the stadium to do the honor. They hadn't done it in a while, but something told her – maybe the Force? – that it might be time to bring the tradition back.
She shared her plan with a co-worker. "How are you going to know who to pick?"
"We'll know, we'll know," Tymon said she told him.
She got on an elevator and ran into a family from Buffalo. Among them was a little boy, Charlie Stewart, who will be 9 next month. He had on a Yankees hat and was holding a mitt.
He was just the droid she was looking for.
"Do you play baseball?" Tymon asked him.
He sure does. Charlie is a second-baseman and catcher for the North Buffalo Blaze, a travel team, at Shoshone Park in North Buffalo.
Tymon told Charlie that Darth Vader wasn't able to throw out the first pitch at the game that was about to begin, but he could help someone do it.
"I was wondering if you could help," she asked him.
Charlie and his family were stunned.
"All of our jaws dropped," said his dad, Ryan Stewart, who works in commercial finance.
Charlie nodded vigorously.
Tymon told him he didn't have to stand on the mound if he didn't want to. "You can stand closer to home plate," she told him.
But Charlie was up for the challenge. "This little 8-year-old said: 'I'm going to stand up there on the white on the mound,' " Tymon said.
Tymon brought Charlie and his family – his dad; mother, Megan; older sister, Maya, 11; and younger sister, Lily, 2 – onto the field as the Mariners wrapped up batting practice. Soon, the Yankees filed into their dugout. Actors dressed up as Star Wars characters paraded around the stadium.
Charlie stood with R2-D2, Chewbacca and Darth Vader as the players were introduced. The Mariners were portrayed as the bad guys, and the Yankees were the Jedi and other members of the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars.
Then it was time for the first pitch.
Charlie walked out with Darth Vader, stood on the mound and before a crowd of just over 42,000 people at Yankee Stadium, the announcer introduced him: Charlie Stewart from Buffalo on his first visit to Yankee Stadium.
Then he threw the ball.
The Force was with Charlie.
It crossed home and bounced just in front of the catcher, Gary Sanchez, his father described.
"It was a good pitch," he said.
Tymon was blown away. "He threw a rocket," she said. "The team in the dugout was applauding and laughing."
The crowd cheered.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 25, 2017
"It was amazing," Charlie said in a phone interview Saturday. His family is still in New York.
"I was a little bit nervous," he said, but he concentrated on one thing: "Getting the mechanics correctly."
He's not quite sure, but he thinks he threw well. "It's kind of hard to tell," he said.
As for Darth Vader, the Sith Lord wasn't too scary, Charlie said. "He was nice," he said.
It was a moment the Stewart family will treasure forever. This year's been a tough one for them. In March, an electrical fire caused serious damage to their house. They escaped safely, but they've had to rent another house while repairs were made. Those repairs took up a lot of time and effort this summer, but after the family bought Ryan Stewart tickets to a Yankees game at the end of August as a Father's Day present, they planned a family trip to New York City.
All Yankees fans, none of the Stewarts had ever been to the stadium in the Bronx before, so they were all looking forward to the game. They were even more excited when they found out it was going to be Star Wars Night. But they had no idea how special the game would end up being.
In addition to having Charlie throw the first pitch, the Yankees upgraded their tickets and the Stewarts ended up sitting on the field level.
The Yankees lost that night, but Charlie didn't mind.
"It was a good game," Charlie said.
His older sister told some of their friends back home through social media about what happened Friday night. But Charlie can't wait to tell his friends when he starts fourth grade at St. Mark School: "I got to throw the first pitch at Yankee Stadium."