Becky Marx opened her computer and typed a message to Lauren Sweet in a letter.
The entire 2005 roster did the same. Angie Danis, who wrote to Romero, hatched the idea to write to their 2015 counterpart, and it blossomed. For example, Marx was writing to Sweet because they had both worn No. 25.
On Sierra Romero’s first day at Alumni Field, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins didn’t have Romero take batting practice. She didn’t want to see her crush softballs into the outfield bleachers as she has done so many times since.
Instead, Hutchins told her to get on the Internet.
As is customary for freshman on the Michigan softball team, Hutchins assigned Romero a research paper on the tradition engrained in the number she would wear during her career with the Wolverines.
Today, Romero knows what every player to don No. 32 for the maize and blue accomplished in their career. She could tell you if a certain player excelled academically, if they were an All-American or if they won a Big Ten championship.
And she most certainly could tell you who had No. 32 on their back in 2005, the year Michigan finally got over the hump and turned its string of success into an NCAA Championship.
The research is a sign of respect for what every individual has done to bring the program to where it is today.
“I think it’s important for them to understand that this isn’t about them,” Hutchins said. “(The freshman paper) is the first thing that sets the tone for that.”
Now, the roles were reversed for once. The players were no longer writing about the veterans. Instead, the veterans were writing back to the players.
Hutchins collected those letters, and they were distributed to the team before its first WCWS matchup against Alabama. The notes weren’t discarded as cliché forms of tradition; they were hung inside the Michigan softball dugout.
Today, the Wolverines stand among the softball powerhouses, but that wouldn’t be possible without the 2005 national championship team.
Michigan fell short in the WCWS six times in ten years before 2005, each of those shortcomings coming in the first round. It was the national title that validated its seat at the table with the sport’s typical juggernauts like UCLA, Arizona and the other Pac-10 Teams that owned the sport’s grandest stage since its inception in 1982.
The Wolverines were the first team East of the Mississippi to win a WCWS, and they proved that a program from the Midwest could do much more than simply make it to the national tournament. Michigan’s victory didn’t just open a door for itself, but for eastern teams like Alabama, Florida and Tennessee to find their own success as well.
In 2005, the Wolverines had taken the final step. They no longer just dominated the Big Ten, they had dominated the nation.
There is no question that Michigan softball has a great history. The team has made the Women’s College World Series 11 times in the program’s 37-year existence and have never suffered a losing season.
Yet only one of those 11 have done what the Wolverines have set out to do this week, so the messages enclosed in those letters won’t fall on deaf ears.
2005 right-hander Jennie Ritter just changed her Facebook photo to an old image of her in a Michigan uniform.
And Ritter wasn’t the only member of the 2005 team to do so. According to Hutchins, after the Wolverines defeated Georgia in the Super Regionals to secure their place in Oklahoma City, a trend went viral. The majority of that championship roster was changing their Facebook profile pictures to photos from their career in the maize and blue as well.
It’s a small act with large implications. It isn’t just a typical change in the world of social media. Rather, it’s a supportive assurance from the team that put Michigan softball on the map and thrust the program into conversations with top-tier ball clubs.
The 2015 roster isn’t just listening to a speech from an elder alumnus on a random practice day in April. Those 20 players are being driven by the very team whose legacy they want to expand upon.