That time the Yankees sent me a free fan pack
Early in 2013, the New York Yankees entered a strategic partnership with Manchester City, the English Premier League football club, keen to explore opportunities for mutual commercial growth. As a British baseball fan, I was intrigued by the possibilities of such an arrangement, hoping it would strengthen the visibility of MLB in the UK. The teams joined forces to create an MLS expansion franchise – New York City FC – based in the Bronx. The Yankees owned 20% while Manchester City controlled the other 80%. Analysts tried to decipher what it all meant, and I was right among them.
As an upstart baseball blogger, I wanted to explore the City-Yankees relationship in greater detail. More specifically, I wanted to campaign for true mutuality in the arrangement. I saw a genuine opportunity for the Yankees to forge a presence in my homeland, a prerequisite in the fight for MLB games in London, my most fervent fantasy. I decided to write a feature articulating that vision, using New York City FC as a crutch. The response was beyond my wildest dreams.
Early in the research process, I sent a speculative email to the Yankees’ press office, hoping to receive a stock quote about the team’s international vision. I referenced the Manchester City project and asked if the Yankees had any further plans to expand throughout Britain. I suggested open days or envoy clinics with popular Yankees players to stimulate interest. In all honesty, I did not expect a reply.
Nevertheless, late one night as I sat down to relax, my phone pinged with an urgent email. I opened the link and saw a message from Cristina Campana, the Yankees’ Senior Coordinator of Disabled Services and Guest Relations. I was stunned but continued reading excitedly. Cristina promised to pass my suggestions to relevant personnel within the Yankees’ organisation. Furthermore, she commented that, as a Brit, my baseball knowledge had caused quite a stir in the club’s offices. As a token gesture, Cristina wanted to send me a hamper of Yankees merchandise. She requested my shirt size and address. I was truly taken aback and typed a swift response to Cristina, thanking her and confirming my address. A chapter of Yankees appreciation began in earnest.
On Thursday 13th March 2014, a long brown package arrived in the post. It bore a white label, stamped evocatively with the Yankees’ fabled top hat emblem. The parcel’s origin, labelled tantalisingly, sent a shiver down my spine: Yankee Stadium, One East 161st St, Bronx, N.Y., 10451.
Beneath that magical seal lay my address, handwritten for dramatic effect. I was overcome with emotion, struggling to comprehend the chain of events that led to me cradling a gift from the world’s most illustrious sporting dynasty. The odds were improbable.
In breathless haste, I tore at the package, carefully remembering to store the label for posterity. I ripped open the box, peering through a window into the champagne-scented, velvet-coated, pinstriped nirvana of baseball glory.
The Yankees sent me one of their famous caps, featuring the sacred interlocking NY logo. They sent me a t-shirt, a pennant, a winter hat, a drinks bottle and a USB stick emblazoned with their signature branding. They even sent me a mini Yankees speaker to enrich my listening to games. I gushed uncontrollably.
Cristina included a letter with her parcel, typed on fine paper bearing the Yankees’ letterhead. I cherished the message, which read as follows:
To that point, I always held a vague notion of Yankee class without necessarily believing in it. At various times, I was agnostic and downright hostile to the concept of recurring success creating a culture of sacred greatness in the Bronx. However, through direct experience, the full extent of the Yankees’ majesty was revealed to me. I became a believer, accepted into the global faith of pinstriped baseball. The Yankees made me a priority, and my perspective changed forever.
Sure, my gift box was a small part of the Yankees’ commercial kingdom. Anyone can request a ‘fan pack’ online, and the team dedicates millions of dollars to fan outreach every year, seeking to whet the appetite of naïve seamheads who will then spend even more money on hats, jerseys and tickets over the ensuing decades. I understand that, for the Yankees, this was a miniscule footnote in their grand marketing strategy, but who cares? Who actually cares? Some will say I fell for the oldest trick in the sales playbook, but who gives a damn? I certainly do not, and neither should you.
In fact, being wooed and indulged by the New York Yankees was enjoyable. Their offering of gifts is easily the most romantic thing any sports team has ever done for me. It made me feel special, wanted and part of something larger than myself. As a British fan devoid of geographical or familial ties to any MLB team, the Yankees stepped forward and created a connection. In short, their efforts worked, just as fine marketing is supposed to. The Yankees are great at that, too, it turns out. They know how to impress.
In a world of unrequited sports love, where clubs grow complacent about the support they receive, seeing the most illustrious team of all proactively trying to give something back was refreshing. More than that, it was cathartic. Despite hordes of worldwide admirers, the Yankees were still trying to win new fans at a granular level, and that sustained effort dispelled many of my misconceptions about their trademark arrogance.
“Rooting for the Yankees is like going to a casino and cheering for the house,” comedian Doug Stanhope once said. Well I had the inside track and a world full of chips. There was no way I could lose. Not because of the Steinbrenner checking account, you understand, but because the Yankees filled a void in my heart that had been there for years. The Yankees gave me a reason to root for them.
Indeed, five years after receiving the letter and care package, I cheered as the Yankees swept a two-game series from the Red Sox in London – fantasy brought to life in a hue of poetic symmetry. Consciously or otherwise, the Yankees implemented many of my ideas while visiting the UK, hosting legend-led events in local communities and donating equipment to British baseball teams. To this day, I can barely believe it happened – a dream turned reality. I have the game tickets framed in my office, next to the letter that changed my life. I look at those trinkets every day, still unsure how it all happened, but eternally grateful it did.