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From the Spinners zone: Yankees go home

Daisuke Matsuzaka might not have been the most important thing Red Sox Nation snatched from the New York Yankees in 2006.

That's because the Lowell Spinners -- the single-A affiliate of the Sox -- led a campaign that all but eradicated the Evil Empire's presence from youth leagues within the Nation's borders. In all, the Yankee Elimination Project, which was conceived in February, rid New England of about 75 Yankees teams in more than 35 communities in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

"We knew it would be a successful promotion," said Jon Goode, the Spinners' vice president of communications, "but we didn't think it would be that successful to the point that it was the number one story on both Boston.com and ESPN.com."

The Spinners offered to donate the money for new uniforms to any local youth league willing to replace its Yankees with a team called the Spinners, also allowing the team to play on the field at LeLacheur Park before a Spinners game.

So far the whole thing has cost the team more than $20,000, but if you ask the Spinners, it was money well spent. All along, the goal was to protect young Red Sox fans from the devastation that many feel when they find out they must wear pinstripes.

And the Spinners haven't slowed down. If you took part in a Yankee Swap this month, the Spinners were hoping you'd call it a Spinners Swap. And the perfect gift to promote the Yankee Elimination Program, they say: "YEP" T-shirts, which are now in their third week of sales.

This spring begins what Goode called "part two." But even if the team reaches its goal of 100 total Yankee teams eliminated, it couldn't possibly come anywhere close to part one.

After last year, how many Yankee teams can be left?

"Hopefully," Goode said, "none."

MIKE LIPKA

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