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Spinning a plan to purge the Yankees

Lowell promotion garnering nationwide attention
February 14, 2006
The rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, rooted in nearly a century of mutual hostility, is the most storied in professional sports. And it just got a little more intense, thanks to a unique promotion staged by the Lowell Spinners.

Last week the Spinners -- the Red Sox' affiliate in the Class A short-season New York-Penn League -- launched the "Yankee Elimination Program." The club is seeking to replace Yankee teams among local youth baseball organizations with Spinners teams. As part of the promotion, the Spinners will pay to replace the Yankees' uniforms and allow the newly rechristened teams to play on their field before a regular-season game this summer.

Spinners general manager Tim Bawmann figured the Yankee Elimination Program would be a fun way to expand his ballclub's visibility throughout Massachusetts. But, this being Yankees and Red Sox, he got way more than he bargained for.

"I worked in the Midwest League for four or five years and we received national exposure when our ballpark flooded, but it was nothing like this," Bawmann said. "Our original intent was regional, but this promotion has gone nationwide."

In fact, the Yankee Elimination Program has sparked so much interest that Bawmann and Spinners director of corporate communications Jon Goode will appear on ESPN's Cold Pizza at 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday to discuss their controversial brainchild.

"The first thing I want to get across is that in no way are we trying to denigrate the name of the Yankees," Bawmann said. "This is all in good fun."

Bawmann's statement, one that he likely will repeat to a nationwide audience on Wednesday morning, is aimed toward those who have criticized what they feel is an overly negative bid for attention by the Spinners.

"Staten Island (the Yankees' New York-Penn League affiliate) knew we were going to do this," Bawmann said. "They're planning to retaliate."

While the Baby Bombers of Staten Island plot their revenge, the Spinners have a more pressing matter to attend to: responding to all the teams that have taken them up on their offer. Thus far, 27 communities wishing to replace their Yankee teams with Spinners have contacted the Lowell franchise, including a youth bowling league and a men's baseball league from Rochester, N.Y.

One group making the switch is the Pawtucketville Youth Organization, which is based in Lowell. The PYO will be replacing its two Yankee entries with Spinners. Ray Boutin, the organization's Minor League Commissioner, couldn't be happier with the switch.

"We love the Spinners so much," he said. "They've always treated families incredibly. And now they're giving us the opportunity to provide our kids with brand new uniforms. This is just a great promotion, it's a lot of fun, and that's what the Spinners are all about."

While Yankee fans may disagree with that statement, one thing is clear: baseball's biggest rivalry just got bigger.