SAN DIEGO — San Diego Padres closer Kirby Yates has gone into business with some of his fellow major leaugers to create a new outdoor recreation game.
What started as an innocent tailgate game with buddies quickly grew into a small business operation for Yates called CupCheck.
“These days at NASCAR we would literally play all day and people were coming up to us and other people started playing and sure enough we had mini tournaments and everything going and we felt like we could make the game better,” Yates said from his home in Arizona.
Yates teamed up with nine other major leaguers including fellow Padre Garrett Richards, retired pitcher Kevin Jepsen, Orioles starter Alex Cobb and free agent outfielder and ex-Dodger Yasiel Puig, among others.
Together they created CupCheck, dubbed by creators as a fun, outdoor recreation game. The brand also is a partner with the Testicular Cancer Society which helps save lives through education, research and fundraising.
“You throw the discs and you’re trying to knock off the cups,” Yates said. “You either knock off the cup or you slide it through the poles so that’s how you get points on the offensive side. On the flip side of that is when you’re playing defense and the cups fly off, if you catch them, you get points too.”
Baseball colleagues-turned-business partners, Yates appreciates the bond CupCheck provides.
“We obviously all have baseball in common but this is a cool way to get to know somebody in a different type of setting,” he said. “You know, I never knew Puig I just played against him and once you get to meet him and talk to him, he’s not exactly what you think he would be when you play against him.”
And Puig just so happens to be the best of the group.
“He’s so athletic and he’s so competitive and doesn’t like to lose so when we play,” he said. “It’s very very fun, he makes it fun. You know I’m not the best, I love playing, I’m pretty competitive myself.”
The 33-year-old standout closer recorded a National League-leading 41 saves with an ERA of 1.19 in 60 games during the 2019 season. Yates, also named an All-Star a season ago, was ranked as baseball’s second-best closer behind Brewers’ lefty Josh Hader, according to MLB.com.
With the major league season now on hold, Yates said he’s doing what he can to keep his arm in shape.
“I’ve been playing catch every day, I’ve been playing long toss, I’ll throw a bullpen when I feel like I need it and just trying to keep your body ready for when you do get the call and need to ramp up that you can physically ramp up in a hurry,” he said.
Yates added, “You kind of just have to go with it and accept that we’re in uncharted territory and you kind of just have to go with it and roll with the punches.”