SAN FRANCISCO -- There's been an important presence in the Reds clubhouse for the past several months. It just sits still and quiet somewhere in the room, saying nothing and doing nothing.
While it doesn't speak, it provides them motivation. While it can't praise, it offers them a reward for a job well done.
It is quite simply, "The Cup," a tarnished golden trophy that has become part of the dynamic that makes up the 2012 Reds. And it means something to everyone.
On the night the Reds clinched the National League Central division Sept. 22, Reds players treated their cup like the Stanley Cup from hockey lore and drank beer and champagne from it triumphantly, something that made the success just a little bit sweeter.
Its very existence was born from the frustration of not winning a different cup -- the Ohio Cup that is awarded to the winner of the six-game Interleague Series between in-state rivals, the Reds and Indians.
"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."
The cup's name varied by the city and opponent the Reds were facing. In Chicago, it was called the "Windy City Cup." In Philadelphia, players battled for the "Cheesesteak Cup." A series against St. Louis was the "Gateway Cup."
Who decides the names?
"Everyone has input and we come up with a name for the cup," Ludwick said.
It was obviously nothing very elaborate, but some extra meaning nonetheless to encourage winning each and every series.
"It was just nice to have something to be proud of at the end of every three games," Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo said. "Baseball is such a long game, it's much easier to focus at the task at hand when you can take it in small snapshots."
One day, the cup went from something mythical to an actual tangible item. Ludwick, who is credited along with reliever Sam LeCure with coming up the cup idea, was brainstorming with rookie catcher Devin Mesoraco when the idea went to the next level.
"Ludwick said, 'We need to get a cup.' We came up with the idea together that I would go and try to find a cup," Mesoraco said.
Mesoraco found the trophy at an antique shop in Bellevue, Ky., and snagged it for $50. "I just went in and it was sitting right there and it took me two minutes to pick it out," Mesoraco said.
When Mesoraco returned to Great American Ball Park with his find, he deposited in the locker of the guy who started the idea -- Ludwick.
The base of the award reads "Pine Cup," which means nothing to anybody. But whatever it was called, now the Reds had something to really play for.
"It's just something we wanted -- to go out and win every series, which I think every ballclub wants," Arroyo said. "If you can win two out of three, you're having a pretty good year."
"We had something we could look at and say, 'Yeah, this is the cup we need to win,'" Mesoraco said.
The cup has traveled with the Reds to every ballpark since Mesoraco found it a couple of months ago. Clubhouse staffers don't pack it up with the team's belongings -- it's usually hand carried on to the bus and plane by a player, usually a rookie, and it's brought to the ballpark to sit in the middle of the room until a series can be claimed.
On Friday as the Reds returned from the NL Division Series workout ahead of Saturday's Game 1 vs. the Giants, the cup was resting on top of a trunk in the visitor's clubhouse, ready and willing to serve its purpose.
"It kind of took on a life of its own from messing around comments," Mesoraco said. "It's not something we thought about. It was just there, in somebody's head, and they kept saying it. It's kind of a fun thing."
If the Reds achieve their goals in the postseason, there is a chance the players could drink from the cup in celebration three more times. For the NLDS, the name of the cup was kept a secret.
"I don't think we'll let you guys know the name when we get it," Ludwick said. "I'm not worried about a celebration right now. I'm worried about Matt Cain and I'm worried about the Giants [Saturday]. I'm not looking ahead. I'm not looking forward."
Besides, the real goal is to trade this cup for a bigger, shinier one, that's awarded by the Commissioner of Baseball.
"We hope so," Arroyo said. "We hope this doesn't die a first-rounder."