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May 15, 2014 - Image 1

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2014-05-15
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Thursday, May 15, 2014
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

le 1C lan aj
Weekly Summer Edition MichiganDaily.com

Ann Arbor, MI

Daily Sports Writer
Natalie Harper just wanted to
take a picture.
She and her family were in town
for the 2010 Michigan football
spring game and decided to check
out a softball game afterward.
When the family arrived at
Alumni Field, Natalie went down
by the fence to try to snap a shot of
the players.
But she couldn't quite get her
camera to work. Seeing then-six-
year-old Natalie struggling with
her mom's camera phone, Roya St.
Clair - a senior catcher at the time
- walked over to lend a hand.
Once Natalie had her picture, St.
Clair handed the beaming young
girl a softball and told her where to
wait after the game. She promised
that if Natalie was there when the
game was over, she would take her
around and help her get each player
to sign the ball.

St. Clair didn't know it at the coach Carol Hutchins decided to
time, but she wasn't just giv- formalize Natalie's involvement
ing Natalie Harper a softball and with the team, first by allowing her
promising her some autographs. to join the team's pregame routine
She was about to introduce Natalie and then by letting her into the
to her second family. locker room.
But on one occasion in April,
* * * senior outfielder Katie Luetkens
looked over her shoulder and, to
Ten-year-old Natalie has 4q her surprise, there was no Nata-
Deletion Syndrome, meaning the lie. She swiveled her head in both
end of the long arm of her fourth directions before finally seeing her
chromosome was deleted from her veer into left field, grinning wider
genetic code. The implications of than ever.
the rare chromosomal disorder are Luetkens corralled Natalie, and
mostly physical and have already the two ran back to the dugout
led to two heart surgeries for Nata- hand-in-hand. Everything was fine.
lie in her young life. But for a moment, Luetkens
After her first experience with looked as though she had lost her
St. Clair, she wanted to come back shadow.

for more softball. So the Harpers
have made the trek to Ann Arbor
for nearly every home game since
2010, if her health allows.
But after a while, as Natalie's
greetings became a part of the
post-game routine, Michigan

By the time Luetkens joined the
team in 2011, greeting Natalie was
embedded into the team's routine.
Even before she earned locker
room and dugout access, Natalie
had stolen Luetkens' heart with
her zest for life and positivity.
"As soon as she came up to me
and just wanted me to hang out
with her, and just opened up, she
grabbed my heart," Luetkens said.
"She's been my sister ever since."
When Natalie runs on the field,
it's with Luetkens. When Luetkens
draws Mickey Mouse in the dirt
before games, Natalie is respon-
sible for the ears. And when Luet-
kens gets introduced, she's right
behind her.
According to Hutchins, there
isn't a better person on the team for
Natalie to spend time with.
"Katie Luetkens really knows
how to make you feel special," she
When Luetkens talks about Nat-
alie, she glows with excitement. It's
clear that that this isn't lip service

or charity. Luetkens has a sister in
Natalie, and Natalie has one in her.
"I never wanted her to feel
like she was a burden, or that she
couldn't do anything we could do,"
Luetkens said. "She's special and
I want her to have a good experi-
ence. Sometimes she'll be tired
and ask for a piggyback ride, and I
never say no.I know she loves it."
There have been times, though,
when Luetkens has gotten caught
up in a game and lost track of Nata-
lie in the dugout.
"One time," Luetkens recalls,
"she went up to (Hutchins in the
middle of a pressure situation),
and just said, 'It's OK, Hutch. Don't
worry about it.' I was like, 'Oh no ...
I lost track of her,' but (Hutchins)
just turned around and laughed."
Back home in Indiana, Natalie
has just started playing softball.
So far, her favorite position is
Physically, she's not up to the
size of most girls her age, but she
does seem to have one huge advan-
tage over her teammates.
"I think she has picked up on
stuff that Hutchins tells the team,"
said Natalie's mom, Courtney
Harper. "He'll ask them what they
should do in a situation, and Nata-
lie will say,'Well, I do this and this
person does that' Her coach came
up to me and was like, 'I'm not the
one teaching her that."'
As a bat girl for Michigan, Nata-
lie is tasked with collecting the
bat from the hitter in the on-deck
circle before she steps to the plate.
Another, though, is much more
suited to her bubbling personality
- her daily joke that she tells the
team before each game.
The team eagerly listens to the
jokes and lets out a loud "ahhhh" in

unison after each one.
After one game, when Natalie
was taking pictures with the play-
ers, the players would ask her when
they would next get to see her.
"I'm not sure," Natalie would
say. "I want to go (to the next game,
at Purdue), but I'm not sure."
The players then would turn to
Courtney and Danny Harper, like
an elementary-school kid does to
their friends' parents begging for a
sleepover, with the same question.
"We're seeing if it will work,"
they would say, over and over.
"There's never a time that she's
around that we aren't just glow-
ing," Luetkens said. "When she
isn't there, we really miss her."
Luetkens graduated from the
University on May 10, but Natalie
will still be here next year. That's
been one of the hardest thoughts
for Luetkens to deal with - now
she's goingto miss Natalie.
It will be hard for Natalie too,
but a new group of new faces will
enter the dugout next year, and
they will all get used to seeing her
bright smile at every home game.
"Honestly, she doesn't even tell
us about the dugout," Courtney
said. "That's her special place, and
those are her sisters. She keeps it
close to her sleeve."
Now that the Wolverines have
won the regular-season Big Ten
Championship, they will add a new
picture to their wall of conference
championships teams. All of those
pictures look mostly the same,
except the one from 2013. That one
has a small bright-faced girl light-
ingup the front row, posing right in
front of Luetkens.
Natalie didn't need to take a pic-
ture of that moment.
She was right in the middle of it.

* *de
Life sciences
Coleman, NIH director laud
University research efforts
during celebration
Bike share update
Kiosks planned near State
Street, Modern Languages
Building, Michigan Union
Affirmative action
In light of SCOTUS
decision, 'U' should take
efforts to increase diversity
Rogan, Byrne, Efron star
in witty portrayal of wild
youth and stoner bravado
Softball's sweetie
The team's official batgirl
Natalie shares a special
bond with her 'sisters'
Vols.(; ,,Nofb 2013S heMichin.Daily
NEWS ..........................2
SPORTS.... ..........10


The Michigan softball team will open the NCAA Tournament in Tempe, Ariz. this weekend. The Wolverinesp lay San
Diego State on Friday at 3 :30 p.m . in a double-elim ination four-team tournam ent.
helps profs. ee h tt

and gender
Sheryl WuDunn
headlines multi-day
Women and Economic
Security conference
For the Daily
Over 100 people gathered at Rack-
ham Auditorium Wednesday evening
to hear Pulitzer Prize-winning jour-
nalist Sheryl WuDunn's take on wom-
en's poverty as part of the Women and
Economic Security Conference.
WuDunn shared her experiences
traveling to some of the world's most
impoverished places, and detailed
what she discovered to be poverty's
worst effects. She said she believes
the oppression of women is a dire
issue worldwide, which results in
problems including a lack of educa-
tion, sex trafficking and maternal
mortality, among others.
By providing the audience with
names and pictures of people affect-
ed by these challenges, WuDunn
grounded her talk in the people she's
met and place she's experienced
around the world.
WuDunn displayed a photo of a
group of young girls - all victims of
sex trafficking - that she met during
her time in Cambodia while discuss-
ing a challenge she said she equates to
modern day slavery.
"They are forced to work 14 hour
days, seven days a week and they
are not paid a dime," WuDunn said.
"What does that sound like? Slavery."
While WuDunn said she does
not necessarily have a solution for
the problems she discovered, she
hopes that by spreading awareness,
more people will feel inclined to get
WuDunn's keynote address was
part of a conference presented by the
See SPEAKER, Page 2


University helps
faculty explore
their disciplines
outside of A2
While spring and sum-
mer semesters are typically
an opportunity for students to
pursue their interests outside of
the classroom, the University's
Michigan Road Scholar Tour
program allowed 30 faculty
and staff to explore the state of
Michigan last week.
In its fifteenth year, the MRS
program aims to connect the
University teaching body with
people working in various fields
- including education reform,
medicine and organic farming -

and open their eyes to the places
in-state students hail from with
which they might not otherwise
be familiar.
The group's five-day tour
included a trip to the General
Motors plant in Lansing, the
Grand Rapids Medical Institute,
the tribal lands of Gun Lake, a
factory in Kalkaska and a clinic
for the poor in Traverse City. The
professors also visited a com-
munity college in Petoskey, an
organic farm in Sault Ste. Marie,
high school students in Midland
and leaders of the Detroit-based
nonprofit, Focus: HOPE.
Jim Kosteva, community rela-
tions director for the University's
office of government relations,
said the program works to pro-
vide outreach opportunities
for the faculty and staff with
regards to economics, govern-
ment, culture, health and other
aspects of life that may be differ-

ent from Ann Arbor's. It aims to
foster an inclusive environment
among colleagues and encour-
age collaboration and interdisci-
plinary activities between those
whose interests might not nor-
mally overlap.
"The MRS program is kind of
a five day orientation to the state
of Michigan, to help University
professors to better understand
the environment and education
as a public university and how
we fit in and contribute to public
service," Kosteva said.
He added that currently "rela-
tively few" number of universi-
ties or colleges offer programs
similar to MRS, though it was
modeled after other schools, and
the University does not claim to
have conceptualized the pro-
Comprehensive Studies Lec-
turer Mark Conger said he espe-
See ROAD TRIP, Page 8

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