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Maryland's Sam Hojnar (Photo courtesy of Sam Hojnar)


Blame it all on his roots: Maryland’s Sam Hojnar moonlights as country singer


A couple of years ago, baseball player Sam Hojnar was singing in the hotel room of his father, Jack, who was playing guitar.

Father and son were about 90 seconds into the song “Something in the Orange” by country star Zach Bryan, when they suddenly stopped to answer what can only be described as a massive pounding on the door.

And even though it wasn’t late – just about 4 p.m. – Jack assumed that their music was bothering a fellow hotel guest.

“When I opened the door,” Jack said, “there stood a giant man — about 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds. He had tattoos all over the place and a beard down to his ankles.

“Before he could speak, I apologized for the music.”

That’s when the Hojnars got a huge surprise.

The giant man said: “Can you please keep the door open? That’s my favorite song, and I’ve never heard it sung so beautifully.”

Sam and Jack invited the man in, and he sat there weeping.

Fast forward to present day, and when they say Maryland Terrapins starting second baseman Sam Hojnar can “pick it”, it’s 50-50 whether people in College Park are talking about a short hop in baseball or a guitar riff on stage.

Hojnar sings country music and plays guitar — when time allows — at an on-campus bar called Looney’s.

When he performs, the entire Maryland team shows up to support him — even though Hojnar is new to the team this season.

“When I heard him play a song called ‘Porch Light’, I was in awe,” Maryland starting first baseman Eddie Hacopian said. “He’s an exceptional talent, and that song fits his voice.

“I think he can be a star.”

Hojnar also writes his own music, and he said he is most proud of a song called Haunted — have a listen:

Hojnar always ends his shows with the song “Revival” by Zach Bryan. That also serves as Hojnar’s walk-up song for his plate appearances at Maryland home games.

“It’s electric when Sam sings that song,” Hacopian said.

Hojnar likely got his musical ability from his father, Jack, who used to be the lead singer and guitarist for a pop band called: Ditchweed Diesel.

“Sam is only scratching the surface of his ability,” Jack Hojnar said. “He wrote his first song at age nine, and it was quite good.

“Maybe he’s not a shredder on the guitar like Eddie Van Halen, but he’s very natural.

“I’m glad he has another outlet for his energy aside from baseball. Maybe 30 years from now he can sit around with his son and play music like he and I have done.”

Sam Hojnar, who is from Naperville, Illinois – a suburb located 28 miles west of Chicago – took piano lessons as a kid. During middle school, he was in the orchestra and in a jazz band, playing guitar and the upright bass.

But once he got to Naperville Central High School, Hojnar quit music to focus fully on baseball.

Hojnar, a 23-year-old switch-hitter, has taken a circuitous route to Maryland, which is actually his fifth school in the past six years.

After Naperville Central, Hojnar played one season at Southern Illinois University, which fired its coaching staff two weeks before he arrived on campus.

He then hit .360 with nine homers and 51 runs in 47 games at Heartland (Illinois) Community College.

From there, Hojnar became an Academic All-Big Ten player in two years at Iowa. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and he had a breakthrough in 2023 with the Hawkeyes, starting 57 games and ranking second on the team in RBIs (59) and third in homers (10).

It was at Iowa where a teammate — Ben Tallman — brought his guitar to school one summer day. That helped renew Hojnar’s love for music.

The next summer, Hojnar – who was out due to torn calf muscle – started watching Hawkeyes football player Dalles Jacobus perform his music at a local bar in Iowa City.

“Me and some friends would go see him play every Tuesday night,” Hojnar said. “One night, I got the courage to ask him if I could go up on stage and sing.

“I hadn’t sung in seven years, and my nerves were running hot. But I sounded pretty good.

“The next week, I asked Dalles if I could open for him. He said ‘yes’, and I did a 30-minute set.”

That was the beginning of this new stage of Hojnar’s life.

Hojnar recorded this music video for the song Forcin’ It during his days at Iowa

But on the baseball/academic side, things were complicated. Hojnar loved Iowa, but he felt he was forced to leave because – as a Hawkeye walk-on – it would’ve been financially problematic to remain at the school.

“I couldn’t afford to play another year there,” Hojnar said. “I had to find a place where I could play baseball and not be $30,000 in the hole.”

After Hojnar hit the transfer portal, Maryland coach Matt Swope signed him.

This was a perfect fit – athletically and musically.

Athletically, Swope and his staff teach “Motor Preferences”, described as the future of performance.

“I was surprised to be recruited by Maryland, the best-hitting tam in the Big Ten last year,” said Hojnar, who is working on a Master’s degree in Product Management. “I had a decent year at Iowa, but I didn’t think it would be enough for Maryland.

“After talking to (Swope) and hearing him talk about what they do with hitters, it was an easy decision.

“(Maryland) is a cool baseball environment. (Motor Preferences) is unreal stuff. It has unlocked my body more how it wants to be used, and it has helped revive my love for baseball.”

Hojnar has started all 12 of Maryland’s games at second base, hitting either second or third in the lineup, and he is off to a solid start, hitting .265/.383/.510 with two homers, four doubles and 13 RBIs. Notably, his plate discipline has taken a big step forward: after posting a 21-65 K-BB mark last year, Hojnar has nine walks against 13 strikeouts so far this spring.

Sam Hojnar celebrates a home run (Maryland Athletics)

As for his music, Hojnar was initially afraid to tell Swope about his performances at the local bar.

What Hojnar didn’t know at that time was that Swope is a big music fan. In fact, Swope, 43, has a tattoo of his favorite band, A Tribe Called Quest on his left arm.

“I have jazz musicians in my family,” said Swope, who was born and raised in Washington D.C., playing for DeMatha High and the University of Maryland. “I still have turntables in my basement.

“Music shaped my childhood, and it has always been a big part of my life.”

Swope, who is a first-year head coach but has been on Maryland’s staff since 2013 as director of baseball operations followed by assistant coach and associate head coach, believes Hojnar is a natural musician.

“He has special pizzazz,” Swope said. “He’s a quiet guy, but to see him come out of his shell when he is performing is the coolest thing.”

After he’s done playing, Hojnar can see himself coaching baseball or moving to Nashville or Austin to chase his musical dreams, and Swope said he will support any or all of those endeavors.

“At Maryland, we’re fully transparent,” Swope said. “We want the best for our players, and if music is a way for Sam to make extra money or just to express himself … we embrace that choice.”