Keeping focused and staying motivated for 162 games can be a very challenging task for even the best of major-league teams. That wasn't a problem for the Cincinnati Reds during their division championship season in 2012, however, or at least it wasn't a problem after they failed to outright win the Ohio Cup from their cross-state rival Cleveland Indians in June.
The Reds entered that series having already swept Cleveland back in Cincinnati earlier in the season. All they had to do was steal one game at Progressive Field to win the season series. Just one victory and the Ohio Cup was theirs. But they couldn't do it, and according to outfielder Ryan Ludwick and several of his teammates, those results were not only disappointing, but unacceptable as well.
"We were 3-0 in Cincinnati. Each day we came to the ballpark in Cleveland, we were trying to get the Ohio Cup," Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick explained on Friday. "Day 1, we didn't get it. Day 2, we didn't get it. And Day 3, we had three chances and we didn't get the cup. There were some people upset we didn't get the cup, me being one of them.
"A couple of us came up with the idea of having a cup for every series."
That's right, to counteract their disappointment and hopefully provide motivation and inspiration for future series, the Reds created their own reward in the form of a two-foot high, Stanley Cup style trophy known most of the time as "The Cup."
The idea is credited to Ludwick and reliever Sam Lecure. The trophy itself was purchased by rookie catcher Devin Mesoraco at a Kentucky antique shop for $50. And the only time the Reds are allowed to claim or celebrate with "The Cup" is after a series victory.
"It's kind of a symbol of winning each series," Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "We carry it around with us, we drink out of it. It's just something to keep us loose. We haven't lost too many so it's been working for us and we're going to keep riding it."
As indicated by Ryan Hanigan, the Reds won nine of their 15 series with the cup itself in the clubhouse, so it seems to be serving its purpose. And yes, the trophy does travel with them everywhere they go. In fact, while on the road it receives a name change that best suits the team they're playing or the city they're playing in.
"It could be the Windy City Cup if you're in Chicago, it could be the Golden Gate Cup if you're out here (in San Francisco)," said pitcher Bronson Arroyo, the Reds' Game 2 starter. "We toss some ideas around and somebody sticks with one."
My personal favorite would have to be the Cheddar Cup, which the Reds "won" by taking two out of three from the Milwaukee Brewers in late September.
Of course the Reds hope to trade their gold and silver cup in for the much fancier and nationally recognized Commissioner's Trophy a few weeks from now. However, until then, the "LDS Cup," as they may want to call it now, will stay with them and continue to serve as their motivation to reach their ultimate goal.