As Maryland baseball right-hander Ryan Selmer jogged from the bullpen to the mound in a road contest against UNC Wilmington his freshman season, “The Imperial March” blasted through the stadium’s speakers. The bases were loaded with no outs when he entered, but he didn’t panic.
The music selection amused Selmer, who grew up watching the Star Wars series with his dad. So, after working around the bases-loaded jam without allowing a run, he adopted the song for home entrances.
In each of his appearances at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium since the sequence in Wilmington, North Carolina, Selmer has sprinted toward the mound to the tune of “The Imperial March.”
He’s emerged as one of coach John Szefc’s primary options to close games this season, leading the Terps with six saves ahead of their Wednesday contest against Towson. When he isn’t pitching, his goofy demeanor amuses his teammates and coaching staff.
“He’s always thrown a lot of strikes,” Szefc said. “He’s got a different arm slot, [so] nothing he throws is straight. It’s tough on right-handed hitters. He’s been one of the more consistent guys the last three years.”
Right-hander Taylor Bloom, who played with Selmer at Riverdale Baptist, said the Beltsville, Maryland, native took until his senior year of high school to hone his physique and ability to throw strikes in any situation. As a result, Selmer helped the Crusaders post a 31-6 record during his final season and committed to Maryland late that year.
After Selmer redshirted his first season in College Park, he matched the program’s single-season appearance record in 2015. But while he recorded a 2.18 ERA and made four starts that year, Szefc didn’t project him as a starter.
Selmer made 27 appearances in 2016, posting a 4.34 ERA over 37 ⅓ innings pitched. Despite his on-field struggles, he continued to display a humorous approach when he wasn’t on the mound, something he’s carried into this campaign.
In addition to discussing his favorite Star Wars moments with teammates, Selmer displays magic tricks he learned on a trip to Myrtle Beach when he was 12 years old.
When the Terps are waiting at airports or traveling on a bus for road contests, Selmer places a coin on his shoulder and makes it disappear. He’ll also make coins move from one hand to the other and perform card tricks.
The unusual behavior doesn’t surprise Bloom, who said Selmer made strange noises to people while the pair was in line at Chipotle the summer before his freshman season at Maryland.
On road trips, Selmer approaches strangers with his tricks, fearing the Terps have his shenanigans figured out. But Bloom disagrees.
“He does the one with the coins, I still don’t know how he does it and he won’t tell me,” Bloom said. “He’s just a goofy kid. … Now, he’s one of our best relief guys. It’s good to see him develop.”
Because Selmer pitched to a 3.38 ERA with the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League last summer, Szefc viewed him as a candidate to pitch late in games this season.
Though Selmer allowed a late grand slam that proved to be the difference in Maryland’s 6-3 loss to Indiana on Sunday, his 2.70 ERA ranks third among Terps relievers who have tossed more than one inning. Opponents are batting just .253 against him, a product of his varied pitch selection.
“Sinker’s my best pitch, it’s always been my best pitch since I’ve been here, getting weak ground ball contact,” Selmer said. “I developed a slider. The changeup has been OK. [Hitters] are not sitting on one pitch. I have other pitches to get in.”
Now that he knows he could be called upon later in games, Selmer sprints to the bullpen to begin stretching in the sixth. If the Terps have a lead for him to maintain, he’ll enter to “The Imperial March” not long after.
“He’ll go out there and he’ll have flames in his eyes,” Bloom said. “I think it’s funny that he can flip a switch. One second, he’ll be goofing around in the bullpen, next thing he’s in the game shutting it down.”