Cup Check Nation,
The following is an article written by Daniel Barbarisi featured in The Wall Street Journal. Enjoy.
“About 2,000 miles into Yankee minor-league catcher Nick McCoy’s drive from San Diego to Tampa, Fla., and roughly 25 minutes into the 30-minute video he made documenting it, McCoy drops his high-energy persona and admits the unavoidable truth: He is really, really bored.
“This last leg of the trip is just tough sledding…I could do without it, to be honest,” he says to the camera on his dashboard.
But since this, and all of the other posts on his nascent website, TheCupCheck.com, are meant to be instructive to fellow minor leaguers, he pauses, and turns positive: “But, you know, it’s all part of the journey.”
The result of McCoy’s efforts, “Spring Training or Bust,” may not go down as the “Citizen Kane” of minor-leaguer-filming-himself-driving-cross-country videos.
But for the thousands of minor leaguers who make similar trips each year, it represents something rare: a familiar and relatable experience, just like everything else they find on TheCupCheck.com.
It is partly a how-to website and partly a minor-league clubhouse on the Internet, believed to be the first website built by minor leaguers to try to educate their brethren about life in the game.
McCoy, 26, gathered a group of minor leaguers and built the site this November, trying to fill a void in the lives of minor league ballplayers nationwide. Beyond word-of-mouth, there are few resources out there to teach minor leaguers about the unique world they live in, or places for them to discuss their experiences.
“The major-league guys, their lives are pretty well documented, and they’re under the limelight,” McCoy said. “And us minor-league guys, who are trying to make it there, should have a voice as well.”
He and so many of his teammates found themselves asking the same basic questions. How do I find a job and make money in the off-season? What is winter ball like? What’s the proper etiquette for claiming seats or bunks on minor-league buses?
So McCoy and his uncle, Kevin Kuhn, built a website to answer those questions and more, offering life advice, motivational techniques, and nuts-and-bolts baseball wisdom, by minor leaguers, for minor leaguers.
“I started thinking of what guys do during the off-season, the regular season, what are things to avoid. I think one of the articles we have on there is finding a place [to stay] for spring training,” McCoy said. “That’s something no one really thinks about. Where are these players going to live? How do you find roommates, how to find a place that’s in close proximity to the complex, where are the good restaurants, where are safe places to hang out?”
The site takes its name from the practice of one player smacking another in the privates to ensure they’re wearing their protective cup that day, and the posts are often in that lighthearted vein, but they’re always intended to be instructive.
McCoy recruited six Yankee minor league teammates to write regularly, plus players from the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals to provide a broad perspective. The stories are mainly experiential and often highly personal, said Triple-A Yankee pitcher Preston Claiborne, one of the site’s most prolific contributors.
“There are married guys with kids sharing their experiences, single guys, guys talking about what it’s like to be away from their loved ones, how to deal with that. Everybody has their own ways of going about it,” Claiborne said.
This spring, the site has become a focal point of conversation around Yankee minor-league camp, as players and coaches check in to get a good laugh and a little free advice. Single-A infielder Casey Stevenson said he liked the perspective he found on the site, and thought it would be particularly useful for minor leaguers just starting out.
“I had no idea, coming in, what professional baseball was all about. It took me a full year to adjust. So I feel like having that would be a good resource if you’re a young guy coming in without a clue, and without people to talk to about what it’s like,” Stevenson said.
The site has caught the attention of a few big leaguers, including Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain, who has proudly worn his Cup Check T-shirt, with its Twitter slogan, “@protectthegoods,” around the major-league clubhouse to show support and gain attention for the site.
“They’ve got their own niche, and it works,” Chamberlain said. “It all makes sense because it’s coming from the source.”
McCoy’s goal is to expand until there is one minor leaguer writing per team, and grow the site so that it can be passed from one generation to the next when, he hopes, the current writers graduate to the majors.
“You build the foundation, you lay the groundwork, and then you pass it to the next able-bodied guy who can man the rig,” McCoy said.”
The Cup Check…protect the goods.