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Sox-Yanks fan clubs boast benefits

Sox-Yanks fan clubs boast benefits

NEW YORK -- The joke rippled through Twitter late last month, shooting around the Internet and garnering two distinct reactions.

"News from Yankees Universe," Red Sox owner John Henry punched into his keyboard. "Big upsurge in membership. Apparently coming mostly from Pluto. Not doing nearly as well on Mars."

And there it was -- the great fan club war had begun. Henry's Sox, after all, were the architects of the modern baseball fan club, creating Red Sox Nation five years ago to provide their fans with advanced benefits and new ways to root for their team. Then, just last month, the Yankees founded their Universe, in many ways drawing on what has made Red Sox Nation successful.

"A membership to Yankees Universe gives fans the chance to experience a world of new and unique team essentials," Christy Lee, director of the Yankees Fan Club said in a statement that day. "We are proud to offer Yankees Universe to the best fans in the world."

Those around Boston, of course, might tend to disagree. Their Red Sox Nation club offers four levels of membership -- from the Fan Pack, which provides fans with a personalized Fenway Park scoreboard photo, early access to the park on game days and a subscription to Gameday Audio, all the way up to the sold-out Monster Pack. Those high-end members enjoy a Fenway Park authenticated brick, a Red Sox baseball cap and the opportunity to purchase two Green Monster tickets to a game -- along with all the other benefits of the lower levels.

The Sox even dressed up their fan club by naming broadcaster Jerry Remy president of the Nation, in a competition that included more than 1,200 contestants and tens of thousands of votes. And they do plenty of good with the concept, donating tickets to deserving but disadvantaged fans throughout the season.

In its infancy, Yankees Universe offers only one level of membership, similar to the base level of Red Sox Nation. Members receive a subscription to Gameday Audio, a discount to Yankees Clubhouse stores and a fast-track entrance at both Yankee Stadium and the Yankees Museum -- among other benefits. And a portion of all proceeds are donated to the department of pediatrics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Similar fan clubs exist throughout baseball -- from the Cubs Club in Chicago, which offers three levels of membership and similar features, to the Sox Pride Club across town, which in 2009 added an in-stadium event to its list of benefits. There is Club Mets, which offers its members exclusive ways to follow the team, and the Cardinals Nation club in St. Louis, which has the same look and feel as its cousins around the league.

Yet somehow, of course, the Yankees and Red Sox have managed to take center stage in the forum of fan clubs, as well. Henry's shot was just one of many volleyed down from New England, where Red Sox Nation members watched the birth of Yankees Universe with a smirk.

"I think it is flattering to Red Sox ownership that the Yankees have set up a similar fan club," said Ted Wozny, a Sox fan from Massapequa, N.Y., and a member of Red Sox Nation. "Success always gets copied or imitated. Current Red Sox management has been very innovative in engaging its fans throughout the country and around the world."

Yankees fans, of course, fired back with the contention that their fan club was bigger and better -- even the name implies it, which was what drew the attention of Henry in the first place. Whether or not that's true remains up for debate, but this much is certain: a battle of fan clubs can only be good for the fans.

Those teams that offer such clubs provide fans with another way to show their support. The teams that have rivalries simply take it to another level.

"Sure you can wear the shirts, jerseys, caps and attend the games, but this adds to it," said Michael Huber, a Yankees fan from the Bronx and a member of the new club. "Yankees Universe proves you're a diehard fan."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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