Desiigner, “Family Guy” and Will Ferrell movies. There’s only one common thread connecting each of these, and it sits along the third-base line in Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
Well, over 30 of them stand on the third-base line, hooting and hollering in discord to bring a little more fun to the taut nine innings of play.
“We’re out here to win, but at the same time, we’re playing a kid’s game, so we’re trying to stay loose,” left fielder Madison Nickens said. “They say dumb things in the dugout and it just keeps you loose.”
“We yell a bunch of different stuff,” shortstop Kevin Smith said. “Guys make up words all the time. We got (reliever Ryan) Selmer in there saying words that don’t even make sense.”
It all started after the Terps called a players-only meeting in the second week of the season. Maryland was swept on the road by LSU to drop to 1-5 and the players felt a change was needed. They thought the team was too tense and in need of more energy, so the reserves decided the dugout needed to bring the noise.
“Other guys play,” backup first baseman Kevin Biondic said. “Let us do the yelling.”
The renewed energy jumpstarted a complete reversal for the Terps. Maryland has gone 28-8 since the meeting. The Terps are now 29-13 and stand atop the Big Ten standings.
Biondic and reserve infielder Pat Hisle are the head howlers. The two often stand together and feed off each other’s comments the whole game. They pride themselves on being the funniest and loudest.
“That’s something that you’re not going to read about in the box score or in the story so much, but it’s one of those little tidbits that kind of goes on behind the scenes here,” head coach John Szefc said. “Those two guys in particular are able to provide energy to the guys who are playing, even when they’re not playing, and that’s hard to do.”
The players often get their shouting material from Netflix, picking the best quotes from their favorite comedies, like Adam Sandler’s H20 line from “Waterboy.” Other times, the ammunition comes from within.
“I’ll say pretty much anything and everything just to get a laugh or keep it light in the dugout,” Hisle said. “It’s always fun to see people’s reactions and it’s always an added bonus if you get Szefc to start cracking up.”
“Family Guy,” a clubhouse favorite, plays a starring role in some of that nonsense. Hisle’s favorite recurring chant is a random quote he pulled from one of the show’s cutaway scenes. While everyone on the field tries to focus on the next pitch, someone in the dugout will playfully shout, “I want blue jeans!” Then, after a brief moment of silence, Biondic or Hisle will scream as loudly as possible, “YOU’RE GETTING SLACKS.”
“That’s our favorite because every time we do it, Szefc just starts dying laughing,” Hisle said. “[Against William & Mary], he almost peed himself he was laughing so hard.”
Maryland’s players are not only unfazed by the banter—they’re energized.
During staff ace Brian Shaffer’s start against Princeton on March 17, players would holler “Macedonia!” during most of Shaffer’s deliveries in an effort to throw off the batter’s cadence. The right-hander tossed a then-career-high nine strikeouts in eight innings.
It may not seem like spontaneous “Family Guy” references or Desiigner impressions would help you win a baseball game, but the Terps would beg to differ.
“We want to make it so it’s like an environment they’ve never been in. These teams have played at big stadiums in front of huge crowds,” Hisle said. “They’ve never gone out there and been like, ‘What the heck are they saying?’”
Hisle said the team loves to see reactions like this from other players and coaches because they know their opponents will have to focus on blocking them out the rest of the game.
And the nuttier the chatter gets, the better the team seems to play.
“It’s just like a trickle-down effect,” catcher Nick Cieri said. “Everyone else wants to say something and then the energy leaks onto the field for the other guys.”
Since the players’ meeting, 10 of their 29 wins have come after trailing at some point in the game. While reeling off word-for-word quotes from “Anchorman” or “Talladega Nights” may not be directly responsible for all of the Terps’ rallies, it has certainly aided the comeback effort.
“We have so many guys here that aren’t even playing that are affecting the game because the energy is so high at all times, regardless of if we’re up eight, down eight, tie game, it doesn’t matter,” center fielder Zach Jancarski said.
The whoops and wails aren’t limited to when the team is trailing, though. Often times, the team is the loudest in the early innings when the relief pitchers chime in before they relocate to the bullpen in left field.
In those early innings, something as simple as a pitch in the dirt will send the dugout into a ruckus.
“That’s when we really start to have fun with it,” Hisle said.
The bench entered into a 15-minute frenzy in the bottom of a second-inning, scoreless tie with Michigan State on April 23. After throwing a dirtball and another outside pitch, Spartans pitcher Keegan Baar’s focus seemed so shaken by the dugout’s incessant racket that he required a meeting with his pitching coach. He couldn’t ignore the bedlam and the very next pitch hit the turf, rolled to the backstop and allowed a runner to score.
This is when the bench really exploded. With each successive ball thrown, the celebratory cheers crescendoed. But it wasn’t just after that wild pitch. Each player clapped, screamed and stomped between each delivery to Madison Nickens. He was issued a four-pitch walk.
“We try to get in their head as much as possible,” Biondic said.
Then, a chant one would expect to hear at the Olympics instead broke out at a Maryland baseball game. Catcher Danny Maynard was thrown three consecutive balls and the clubhouse erupted into an impromptu “U-S-A” chant.
This was the 10th straight pitch outside the zone. Two more balls were called before the Spartans pitcher struck out third baseman AJ Lee. Afterward, Zach Jancarski hit a single to drive in two runs and put the Terps up 3-0. This time, the home crowd joined in on the cheering.
“Every day we’re here, we bring a lot of energy. It’s a tough place to play against us,” Jancarski said after the game. “It gives our guys a confidence boost before the game even starts.”
This confidence will last throughout the whole game, as the Terps never get shaken when facing a deficit. Whenever a player strikes out or something else bad happens, the team will calmly bark, “Don’t care!”
“It’s like, so what?” Hisle said. “Something happened, but we’re still having fun, we’re still out here playing baseball and we have plenty more game to play.”
The Terps keep this devil-may-care mentality after losses because there is a lot of baseball left in the season. They have 12 more games left to play before the start of the Big Ten tournament on May 24. Then, the Terps will bring their obnoxious rallying calls to the NCAA tournament, where they will look for their third Super Regional appearance in four years.
“As long as we stay loose and do our thing, we’re going to be fine,” Hisle said.
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