If Michigan had a sporting event during Pete Dalton’s time as a Michigan student in the 1980s, Pete attended with his tuba in hand.
Dalton, who graduated in 1986, played in every pep band imaginable during his days at Michigan, from the Marching Band to the hockey band to both basketball bands, and he even played in a baseball band that consisted of him and one of his friends going out to The Fish on a spring afternoon.
“We really didn’t go to class, Me and my buddy just had a few beers and headed over here,” Dalton said.
Four years ago, when Pete’s wife, Jennie, who he met in the band, wanted him to go with her to the Big Ten Softball Tournament, he couldn’t go without his instrument.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘I just can’t go to a Michigan sporting event and be a typical fan who just sits on my hands,” he said.
So Dalton headed over to Alumni Field and did his routine, shocking everyone to say the least. After that game, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins as well as the team went up to him and asked, “You’re coming back tomorrow, right?”
Not only did Dalton come back the next day, he and his wife have been coming back for four years.
They, and whoever else from the Alumni Band they can scrounge up, have now played at a variety of lesser-known Michigan sporting events. In addition to softball, Dalton and his group have played at baseball, field hockey and even once, at a swimming meet.
“Shorts and Hawaiian shirts in January was just cool,” Jennie said.
Because the group has played at a variety of Michigan sporting events, it has now become semi-famous within the athletic department. Pete and Jennie now often receive calls from coaches the night before a big game asking them if they could possibly put a band together. Whenever they come out, it’s always a big event for the players on the field.
“We always love it when they come,” softball second baseman Kelsey Kollen said.
Four years ago, when Dalton came back, he played a triple-header as the Wolverines won all three games and the Big Ten Tournament championship.
Having done that, he was invited to come back the next week as Michigan was hosting an NCAA regional. Dalton brought a few of his friends from the Alumni Pep Band to support the team for as many games as Michigan played.
“(We got) whatever we could put together, which at 2 p.m. on a Thursday is kind of tough,” said Pete, who now works as a salesman, which permits him to leave his job at odd times to bring his horn out in support of Michigan sports.
That year, the Wolverines won to advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, and the athletic department asked Dalton to assemble a group that would be willing to make to the trip. Dalton found five people who could take a vacation on a few days notice and traveled out to Oklahoma.
“Things didn’t work out too well for Michigan that year,” Pete said. “But it was a lot of fun.”
The group often gets personal thank-yous and e-mails from players after games, and has even been known to be invited to their postgame parties on occasion.
The Daltons have really taken a liking to playing at the minor sports because they find players who aren’t trying to play well for the purposes of leaving school and going pro but just for the love of the game.
“Here is a bunch of people I can really support, who are students first and they are athletes second,” Pete said.
However, the group sometimes has difficulty when it plays for lesser known sport knowing when the appropriate time to play is.
“Each time we do a different sport, and we’ve done a lot of them now, we try to figure out when we can or cannot play,” Pete said.
When the group went out to Oklahoma City four years ago, the NCAA didn’t know what to do with it because there had rarely been bands at the event in the past. Because the NCAA thought that it would be an unfair advantage if just one school brought a band, the group worked with an NCAA representative on making rules for when a band can and cannot play. The next year, the NCAA softball rulebook had detailed regulations with specific time periods during the warm-ups and between innings as to when a band can play.
But regulations or not, the fun the group has and provides has never been in doubt.
“These are great people, and Michigan’s winning,” said Donald Adamek, who graduated in 2001. “What else can I ask for?”