Let the Round Rock Express take you back to 1976.
It’s the last day of school and seniors command authority while rising freshmen make the transition from middle school to high school. Although the latest party got busted before it could start, it’s okay because you’re driving around with your friends, shooting pool and hanging out at the drive-in until the next one.
Summer is just beginning, and a world of possibilities await.
The Rangers' Triple-A affiliate created just this vibe at Dell Diamond with “Dazed and Confused” Night on Sept. 16 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Richard Linklater film and raise money for his non-profit, the Austin Film Society.
“It’s a celebrated cult classic regardless, but it’s even more special here in Central Texas,” said Laura Fragoso, Round Rock’s senior vice president of marketing. “It’s a Central Texas film project that launched so many careers of actors and [others].”
Along with the local filming ties, the Express gravitated to a message of the film delivered by Wooderson, Matthew McConaughey’s character:
“You just gotta keep livin' man, L-I-V-I-N.”
Round Rock worked with the Austin Film Society to make it a hip, hip night. The Express were given approval to use all the licensing and imagery to set the scene. The partnership went so well, Fragoso said they hope to work more with the group to offer up other experiences for both moviegoers and season-ticket holders.
Before fans even walked through the gates, they were hit with the nostalgia. One fan offered up a classic truck that was displayed by the entrance. Fans got long looks at it, since they were lining up two hours early to get the game’s bobblehead featuring Wooderson along with two of the main characters, Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) and Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins), sitting in a car.
“Especially if you're a fan of the movie, it's just a really well-done bobblehead,” Fragoso said. “People really wanted it. And then our awesome ballpark entertainment team, they redid all of the videoboards and all of our digital displays to kind of have a '70s ‘Dazed and Confused’ theme.”
Like a similar debate about whether a classic action film is a Christmas movie, one could argue “Dazed and Confused” is a baseball movie with Kramer toeing the rubber in the second act. Plenty of those scenes were incorporated into the jumbotron videos.
Spike the mascot dressed up like Wooderson – complete with a T-shirt paying homage to McConaughey’s character – and fans wore their own costumes to match the movie and time period. Music from the iconic soundtrack and other '70s jams blared through the speakers so fans could boogie down. Postgame, there was a musically paired drone show with club and Texas-themed patterns, shapes and words, culminating in the most famous quote from the movie:
“Alright, alright, alright.”
As for the threads, San Diego-based design company Brandiose created the jerseys, which are up for auction, and merchandise. The company also responsible for Round Rock’s primary branding took inspiration from the VHS cover as well as elements from the movie, like the paddles used by the senior boys. Fragoso said the players really liked the jerseys and that the look fit perfectly with the fauxback powder blue hats they typically wear on Saturdays.
The theme spilled into the between-inning entertainment as well. Fans could virtually “race” Ben Affeck’s O’Bannion -- paddle in hand -- around the warning track. And as an ode to the demoralizing tactics of the senior girls played by Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams, Michelle Burke and Deena Martin, the Express had a contest to see who could empty their mustard or ketchup bottle faster on their friends. (Don’t worry, they were given T-shirts to stay cleaner than Christin Hinojosa’s Sabrina was able to.)
Overall, the night was almost as perfect as a party at the moon tower. The only snag was that Linklater and other stars from the movie were supposed to be in attendance for a panel about the film. The Houston native was also expected to throw out the first pitch. Due to the Hollywood strikes, that plan was put on hold, but Fragoso said they respect that position and hope to be able to have the events one day.
“Maybe next year we'll have a 31st anniversary celebration,” she said. “It was a lot of fun. I think we've got a lot of new fans from the film world here in Austin that attended.
“And as we all say in Minor League Baseball, if you find whatever reason to get someone out to the ballpark for the first time, they can realize what a great experience it is. Even if they don’t like sports or baseball, there’s so much more to do and good food to eat and entertainment that it’s just a great way to spend some free time.”