Let's play three
Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks is famous for plenty throughout his professional career, and his legacy comes back up with every doubleheader as announcers mutter his well-known phrase, "Let's play two."
Ridgewater's Heidi Sellmann is taking her own twist on that quote, though, and upping the ante. She says, "Let's play three."
The Willmar High School graduate is joining an exclusive club of Warrior athletes by playing all three sports at Ridgewater this season with the softball season seemingly underway. Sellmann is the first Ridgewater athlete since Montevideo's Vicki Buseman and Red Rock Central's Wendy Lyle played the volleyball, basketball, softball triple during the 2002-2003 school year.
Playing three sports in high school feels even more common than playing just one sport around West Central Minnesota, but that trend almost entirely disappears once athletes reach the collegiate level. Improved competition and an uptick in school workload both play a major role in this drop off.
Sellmann looks past those barriers, though. She looks at the opportunity to play three sports in college the same way she did in high school.
"I've played three sports even before high school, it's just what I'm used to," Sellmann said. "Every sport was my favorite. Once that season started I was super committed. You get used to the balancing. I figured if I can play two, I can play three."
Sellmann has slotted in nicely at each spot during her freshman year with Ridgewater. She racked up a team-leading 39 solo blocks and 35 assisted blocks while managing 143 kills on a .307 hitting percentage as a middle blocker for the volleyball team. She played a central role for the Warriors who went 21-7 in 2017.
Though the basketball team didn't fare quite as well as the volleyball team, Sellmann turned things up to another level individually. She averaged a double-double with a team-high 15.6 points per game and 12.2 rebounds per game, featuring a 47.5 percent field goal rate. Her rebounding mark proved to be good for 17th-best in the country, and her 8.4 defensive rebounds per game finished as the 13th-best total. When she wasn't scoring or pulling in boards, Sellmann also managed 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
The basketball court is the playing surface where Sellmann says she most feels at home. It's easy to feel that way after putting up impressive performances dating back to high school. She helped guide the Cardinals to a Class AAA state tournament appearance and earned a spot on the Tribune's All Area First Team during her senior year.
In fact, her on-court home will soon return to her original home. Sellmann, born in Idaho, will head back to the Gem State to finish out her junior college career at North Idaho College, where she intends to play basketball while living with her older sister, Ashley, who lives in Couer d'Alene.
Moving away from the Willmar area will present more than just lifestyle changes, though. Unlike Ridgewater, which is a Division III junior college, North Idaho College is a Division I junior college, meaning she will be making a big jump up in competition level. She'll draw on her time from Ridgewater when she makes that jump, too.
"I think I've gotten a lot better at not thinking so much," Sellmann said. "I'm working on just reacting and working hard. I've had this simplicity in my mind that has made a big difference."
This approach is something she has tried to reproduce throughout her collegiate career in all sports and has helped her enjoy the grind even more than before.
It's that enjoyment that has led to her three-sport commitment. Many athletes play a sport at a community college for the chance to improve and play at a four-year institution someplace else. Sellmann doesn't make any grand declarations of intending to play three-sports at the next level, but it contributes to a well-roundedness that she says helps her in her daily life. It's also just plain fun.
"I just want to have a lot of fun," Sellmann said. "I think a big part of playing three sports has been continuing to grow as a well-rounded person. I enjoy doing a bit of everything."
Fun is at the forefront of her mind heading into the softball season, where Sellmann is looking to forget a tough senior season at the plate and end her softball career on a high note. She'll be joined by five fellow Ridgewater basketball players, giving second-year head coach Datriana Jensen—a former Warriors softball and basketball player—plenty of multisport athletes.
Though the weather has kept the Warriors from playing a ton of games, they did get a four-game set at the MCAC Crossover at the Rochester dome where Sellmann contributed to a strong offensive weekend for Ridgewater. She tallied four hits in 13 at-bats, including a double, a triple and a stolen base while providing strong defense from centerfield.
Only four games in, Sellmann already feels better stepping into the batter's box.
"Last season was one of the hardest years I've had," Sellmann said. "I struggled to excel. I couldn't hit to save my life, but I knew I was capable of hitting. I've got more confidence this year. I'm ready to make the most of this season and this new beginning. I just need to relax, have fun and let things come to me."
Anybody that has spent any time watching Sellmann play one of her sports can tell she's having fun within the first minute. Regardless of the sport, she is often caught with a big, toothy smile that is only interrupted by words of encouragement for her teammates.
"I'm always talking," Sellmann said with a laugh. "So much of it is due to my faith. It gives me the joy I have. I make the most of every moment. If something bad happens with a teammate I'm always there to say, 'It's OK, you've got this.' It comes naturally to me. I'm the type of person that needs that, but I'm learning some people need their space. Everybody is different. I'm learning that."
Sellmann's outgoing personality has been a mainstay for Willmar-area teams for years now, but that time is running short. The softball season, which is always too short in Minnesota, may prove to be nearly non-existent this season. But if the weather lets up there's little doubt the Ridgewater softball field will be filled with Sellmann's encouragements.