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Chevy recognizes No. 1 fan

Chevy recognizes No. 1 fan

"Being a fan isn't just about souvenirs or how many games you've seen. It's about sharing your passion of baseball with others. Before going to Game 1 of the 2004 World Series, I made this banner and had over 100 Maine Red Sox fans sign it. I brought their signatures and spirit to the game holding up the banner before, during and after the game. My name is Dan and I'm MLB's #1 Fan."

It took fewer than 75 words and the photo shown here to convince the judges.

Chevy's #1 Fan contest ran on MLB.com for most of the first half of this season, and the winner is Dan Cunliffe II, from the tiny Maine town of Minot, pop. 2,248. It was there on Saturday that he attended his 10-year-old son Corey's first youth-league All-Star Game. Now the father and son are about to arrive in Pittsburgh and be treated to the kind of All-Star prize package that so many others tried their best to win.

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It will even include an appearance for Cunliffe in Chevrolet's "Love Affair" television commercial that debuted on the Fourth of July, reprising its classic "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" theme from the 1970s.

"I was shocked," Cunliffe said. "After I stopped jumping around my office and running around my store telling everyone, my heart came back to an almost normal beat. I have lost sleep over the anticipation of wondering how fun it will be."

Cunliffe won this one not just for himself or even for his family, but for other baseball fans. That is what made his entry so unique. He cannot bring everyone from Minot along for the ride, but the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby tickets, the 77th All-Star Game tickets -- and other activities the Chevrolet folks have lined up for their winner -- will be enjoyed with the spirit of a whole community.

Maybe you've never heard of Minot. But you know the heart of a baseball fan.

With space for more than 74 words, here is more of Cunliffe's story.

Think back to that magical 2004 finish by the Red Sox, when they reversed the Curse of the Bambino and won their first World Series since 1918.

"When the Sox made it to the World Series, my whole family was very excited," Cunliffe said. "I really wanted to do something special for my wife for her birthday, so I e-mailed a few people I knew, and one of them said they could get me two tickets to Game 1 of the World Series at Fenway. I wanted her to go with my son Corey, who was 8 at the time, as they both loved the Sox. My plan was to drive them both down to Fenway and wait outside in my car while they watched the game. I was so excited to let them both go.

"Unfortunately, two days before the game, they both came down with a very bad case of the flu. I then decided I would go and bring my friend Kevin, who was a lifelong Yankee fan, hoping I could convert him! I then decided I wanted to bring a sign to support the Sox. I had a vinyl sign made, stating, 'We Mainers Believe,' and I wanted to share my trip with anyone I could. So I hung it up at work for customers and everyone to sign. I brought it to my son's baseball game for the kids to sign. I knew I was so blessed to be going to the game, and knowing how passionate Sox fans are, I wanted to share my trip with as many as I could. I brought the banner to the game and held it up at every opportunity I could.

"Before the game, I was walking and passed Stephen King, the famous horror writer from Maine. I walked up to him to show him the banner. As I started to unroll it, he said, 'I'm sorry I don't sign anything at the games.' I said, 'That's OK, I wasn't going to ask you to sign it, I just thought you may like to see it, as you're from Maine.' After I unrolled it, he said, 'Wow, are all of those people from Maine?" I said, 'Yes.' And he said, 'Well, I have to sign that!' and then pulled out his pen and signed the upper-left corner of the banner. During pregame, I was told by someone sitting behind me that their wife saw the sign on FOX, which was airing the Series."

Phil Caruso, national promotion manager for Chevrolet, said that Cunliffe's entry embodied the kind of fan they were looking for when this campaign began around Opening Day. It just reinforced the message of the "Love Affair" TV spot.

"Our strategy was really to try to make a stronger connection with the fans of the game itself, and that's how the idea of the #1 Fan came about," Caruso said. "It's more about the fans to us than the players. The whole idea was to kick off the season by making a strong connection with the fans and getting them to interact with us.

"The #1 Fan contest really plays well into our whole campaign of making that connection with the game and the fans. ... We had a panel that selected the top five based on some criteria, such as passion for the game and unique things they did. When we got to see Dan, what we really liked about his entry was him spreading his love of the game onto everybody else. That's what we really liked."

Cunliffe will be treated along with his son to a lot of love from Chevy. In addition to being added to that commercial and receiving a burned DVD of it, he and his son will attend private functions created for gatherings of Chevy dealership heads nationwide. The Cunliffes will see the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby, go down to the field to watch batting practice before the All-Star Game, then watch the big game itself. There also will be a lot of Major League Baseball gear involved.

Cunliffe, a father of four, is a lifelong Mainer and works at the family jewelry business that his father started in 1984. Dan Cunliffe II said he has been a Red Sox fan "ever since I can remember," but a more recent influence made the team even more of a cause celebre among the clan.

"The reason we are so into the Sox now is, my mother-in-law is a huge fan, and when she babysat our kids, they would watch the games. Then they came home and watched the games, and my wife and I got hooked on watching them."

Maybe you've never heard of Minot. But you can relate. That is why you never want to miss a chance to enter a contest at MLB.com. Real people win this stuff, and you might wind up in baseball heaven and appear in a national TV commercial.

"My essay wasn't just an entry," Cunliffe said. "I really do enjoy sharing baseball with others. When I get tickets to the games, I always bring my son Corey (as my other kids are too young), and with the other two tickets, we try to bring friends and family who have never been to a game. This year, I was able to get four tickets to our first-ever Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway. We are going in August. The first thing I thought of when we were planning to go was, 'OK, who do we know that is a Yankee fan that never gets to go to any games?' Our next-door neighbor is a lifelong Yankee fan, so we asked him to go with us, and we are still trying to decide who we will bring with the other ticket. We have brought quite a few fans to games who have never been to a game in their life.

"I remember walking into Fenway Park for the first time and how cool the experience was. Seeing the Green Monster, watching the fans do the wave and being a part of it. Hearing the crowd cheer, singing 'Sweet Caroline' with thousands of others. It's something every baseball fan should experience at least once, and I've been trying to do my part in helping that happen."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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