Traditions and superstitions in the game of baseball are some of the most unique in all of sports. From players avoiding stepping on the foul line, post-season hairstyles and colors, to rally caps, nearly every team relies on something to bring it good luck. But the Rally Cup? That’s a new one.
Winning a championship in any sport requires talent and good coaching, but it also takes a little bit of luck. For the Florida Gators, freshman pitcher Garrett Milchin’s used paper PowerAde cup became the source of good fortune in the College World Series Finals.
The unlikely story of this all-powerful cup began in the fourth inning of Monday night’s game. Brady Singer was rolling on the mound, while Florida’s offense was putting on a less than impressive showing, with just two hits and two failed steal attempts through three innings.
Then, in the top of the fourth inning, the Gators loaded the bases with one out after three consecutive walks, putting them in position for an Austin Langworthy sacrifice fly and a Jonathan India two-RBI double to take a 3-0 lead over the Tigers. The only logical answer to the newfound offensive success: Rally Cup.
“I had a cup of PowerAde and I finished it, so I’m kind of just hanging over the rail, got the Rally Cup in my hand and our first base coach Lars Davis comes by and just knocks it out of my hand, like jokingly,” said Milchin on how the Rally Cup began. “I was like, ‘Coach, you know, you knocked that out of my hand, I’m not picking that up. That’s your trash.’ And so, it was just sitting there, so we left it there the whole inning and then we went ahead and put up a three-spot … We’re like, ‘Holy cow, we’ve got something here.’ Then we started, like we would pray to the Rally Cup after every inning we hit and we’d like try and channel the Rally Cup power and stuff, and it worked.”
At some point along the way, star pitcher Alex Faedo joined in with Milchin and was soon deemed the keeper of the Rally Cup, earning it a lot more TV time and attention. Florida went on to hold LSU off for a 4-3 win and Rally Cup took over the internet. It even had its own Twitter page by the end of Game One. Whether the cup was the difference in the game or not, it was the new symbol of Gators baseball and a fun source of energy for the players and fans.
“I think it’s pretty similar to the Rally Possum that LSU had,” Milchin said. “They were scuffling pretty bad, and then, obviously, the Rally Possum runs on the field and they blow up and they go on a tear for the rest of the year. I think it’s pretty similar to that. I think it really gives something for people to just hang onto. Like, ‘Oh, the Rally Cup’s got us. We’re good to go.’ It kind of like gives you something to give you a little peace of mind even if things aren’t going your way. So, I mean, I think it helps. It was pretty cool how it worked out.”
Following the game, Faedo and Milchin were unsure if the Rally Cup would return for Game Two, saying they would have to see if it spoke to them or not. They took it back to the hotel and kept it safe overnight, and it must have spoken to them, because it was back in action on Tuesday, along with its beef jerky from the night before.
“When we first knocked it out of there, the beef jerky was already there,” said Milchin. “We had to reassemble the scene of the Rally Cup, because in Game Two we were in the opposite dugout, so we obviously couldn’t put it in the same spot, so we were trying to recreate the whole scenery for the Rally Cup and we were like, ‘The Rally Cup might get hungry, we might as well give him a little more beef jerky in case he needs a snack or something,’ so we just threw the jerky down there and then drew the circle around him, you know, give him his bubble. And so, yeah. That was that.”
With the scene recreated, the Rally Cup seemed to be working its magic through the first innings of the game as the Gators quickly put up two runs on LSU’s all time wins leader Jared Poche’, and threatened for even more in the third.
Outsiders may have started to question the power of the Rally Cup after that point, as Florida was held hitless over the next five innings of the game and LSU looked to be getting more comfortable at the plate, but Faedo, Milchin and the rest of the Gators’ faith never wavered.
“We went through the routine, put up one in the first, another one in the second,” Milchin said. “We were like, ‘Oh, the Rally Cup’s rolling tonight.’ And then, we went through a slow stretch and we were like, ‘Okay, you know, the Rally Cup works in mysterious ways, so it’s keeping us in the ballgame. We’re still ahead, so it’s doing what it’s doing.’ You can’t ask too much from the Rally Cup. You can’t be selfish about it.”
The Gators joined behind the Rally Cup in the dugout as things got a little hairy in both the seventh and eighth innings, and relied on that ounce of luck mentioned earlier, as a few hops, plays and calls went their way and left them still leading the Tigers 2-1.
Florida then busted the game wide open, tacking on four runs in the bottom of the eighth, and of course, respects were paid to the cup.
“In our inning prayer, we just thanked it for a wonderful night at the dish and just thanked it for a lot of hits and runs,” Milchin said of the reaction to the game-securing inning. “We were just hoping we could finish it out for the Rally Cup.”
The Gators finished it and earned their first National Championship on Tuesday night. While the players’ phones blew up with texts, Milchin’s were a little bit different than those of his teammates.
“It was all over the place,” he said of the Rally Cup sensation. “I didn’t even know until like after we won it, I was checking my phone and a bunch of my friends and family were texting me and they were like, ‘Yeah, congratulations, that’s awesome, but we wanna hear about the Rally Cup, not the actual game.’ And we’re like, ‘Holy cow, this is a big deal.’ So, I guess it just blew up in the past two days.”
The Gators, Rally Cup secure and in hand, returned home to a celebration at McKethan Stadium on Wednesday night and intrigue about the sacred cup continued as Faedo took center stage (plate?) to answer questions about the championship run.
“Our lord and savior,” Faedo said of the Rally Cup. “It got us some runs for the team. I passed the keeper job to Garrett Milchin, so he’ll have to answer all the questions from now on.”
As Faedo will now leave the Orange and Blue behind and begin a professional career with the Detroit Tigers, he has officially handed off the baton to Milchin, who was given the news at the same time as the rest of us.
“I guess Alex is moving on, said Milchin. “I didn’t even know I was the keeper. I just thought I was one of the ones who kind of got it started. I didn’t know I was in charge of it now, so I guess I inherited some responsibility for next year.”
As a part of his upgraded position, Milchin will have the responsibility of deciding the Rally Cup’s fate for next season. Back-to-back CWS titles could be riding on his decision, so he will need to choose wisely.
“We might be throwing it in the trophy case with the actual trophy,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m not really sure, we’ll have to see if it’s speaking to us. We’ve still got it. We brought it back with us. We’re keeping it safe.”