Anjelica Selden Returns To UCLA For First Time Since 2009
In September 2004, Anjelica Selden put on her UCLA practice gear and took the field at Easton Stadium for the first time. Over the next four seasons, Selden was one of college softball’s top pitchers and led the Bruins to three WCWS appearances.
Yet, since her graduation from UCLA in the spring of 2009, Selden had not returned to Easton Stadium. That was until the weekend of March 29-31, 2019, when she was back in Westwood as the first-year pitching coach for the visiting Cal Bears.
Selden was asked to throw the ceremonial first pitch before the series finale on Sunday between the top-ranked Bruins and Cal. It was a chance for UCLA to tip its cap to one of the top pitchers in its illustrious history.
“For us to take a moment,” have everybody (from both teams) hear what she accomplished at UCLA and have her throw out the first pitch, it was a moment where you can go back and see she’s in a really good place,” said current UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez, who was the Bruins assistant coach/pitching coach Selden’s first two seasons and transitioned to the head coaching position prior to Selden’s junior year in 2007.
Since serving as an undergraduate assistant coach in 2009 while finishing her UCLA degree, Selden has stayed connected to the game of softball, but has been out of the limelight of the collegiate game.
During the 2009 season, Selden started coaching prep-aged athletes in Southern California.. As those prep commitments wound down, a travel ball teammate of Selden’s emailed to see if she’d be interested in playing softball professionally.
“At the time,” recalled Selden, “I thought I was done playing. I had no intention of ever playing professional softball, but when she said Italy, I decided, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go.’ I really wanted to experience something new. I knew I wanted to travel the world.”
After pitching for three-straight Italian professional league championship teams from 2010-12, Selden returned to the United States determined to figure out who she was outside of softball.
“When you go home after being a professional athlete,” said Selden, “What do you do with your life? I didn’t want to sit around pondering that. It was going to be a learning experience for me to realize that I was something without softball.
“I think in my gut I knew softball would always be in my life. I just needed to figure out how to weave in all the different parts of myself into my coaching. The parts that had nothing to do with softball were necessary in order to give softball and the women that I’m coaching what they deserve. “
Selden found those parts through travel. A three-month European trip in the spring of 2018 brought more of the puzzle together. Upon returning to the United States and her coaching schedule for pitching lessons, she learned of the coaching vacancy at Cal. Her hire was announced on July 23, 2018.
“Coaching college softball was never on my list of things to do,” said Selden. “I always found myself fighting being defined from softball and wanting to detach myself from it as much as I could to figure out who I was without it. I knew that was something I’d never done. I knew traveling was going to help.
“I feel like traveling and getting to know different cultures and really immersing myself into different values [has helped me understand] why different countries value different things, how to take that into my own life, and how to share that with the players that I’m coaching. There are so many things to gain from traveling and from stepping away from the game that were necessary for me to realize that coaching is where I’m meant to be.”
In the fall of 2004, Selden was a highly-touted recruit for the Bruins about to embark upon what would be an exceptional collegiate career. But she was in a position unique in the program’s storied history.
Since the dawn of NCAA play in the 1982 softball season, the Bruins had always “connected” their pitching lineage. A junior or senior teaching a freshman or sophomore UCLA’s ways, and how to get through “the cooker,” as Hall of Fame coaches Sue Enquist and Sharron Backus had come to describe postseason.
But after winning the NCAA title in 2003 and 2004 with All-American Keira Goerl in the circle, that chain was broken. Selden entered her freshman season in 2005 as the only pure pitcher on a staff that had never thrown a pitch in postseason play. Through that season, Selden shared the circle with part-time pitchers who had other roles on the team when they weren’t taking innings off of Selden’s arm.
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Selden would throw every pitch for the Bruins in all 14 of UCLA’s postseason games that season, the first year of the NCAA’s current format featuring Super Regionals and a best-of-three Championship Series. She pitched the Bruins to four straight wins at the Women’s College World Series, a feat that would have yielded a national championship in any of the sport’s previous 23 NCAA seasons. UCLA would fall to Michigan in a 10-inning marathon in the third and deciding game of the Championship Series, despite Selden striking out 10 Wolverines in the marathon game while earning All-WCWS honors.
“Our junior class that year, [Caitlin Benyi, Emily Zaplatosch, Andrea Duran, and Alyssa Eno] was so great about teaching us what it meant to be a Bruin,” Selden noted. “The tradition, the unwavering belief that we were going to win, no matter the score, and no matter how young I was.”
From that 2005 season through her senior year in 2008, Selden would accumulate 110 wins in the circle, second in UCLA history only to Keira Goerl, a still-standing program-record 1,441 career strikeouts, three WCWS appearances and three All-America honors.
But, Selden’s impact on the Golden Bears pitching staff is already apparent. Cal held a 1-0 lead on Friday before surrendering an unearned run in the seventh inning in an eventual 3-2, eight-inning loss. On Saturday, the Bruins won 1-0 on just five hits.
“It was great to see her so competitive,” said Inouye-Perez of Selden’s return to Easton Stadium. “She called a great game for Cal. They were very effective against us, and her pitching staff did a wonderful job. To see her giving back [to the game] and seeing the confidence she exudes in her Cal pitching staff shows me that if she wants to stay in this profession she’s going to make a tremendous impact.”