Wolverines pay tribute to a longtime friend

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

The Michigan players had the letters “MLE” written on their arms to honor Emily Hepker, a longtime friend of the program.

“She was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2007,” Hutchins said of Hepker. “She came to one of our softball games and Jess Mendoza said, ‘You need to meet the softball team,’ and she introduced herself. And when I asked her what she did for a living she said, ‘Well, I have cancer.’

“She’s spent her whole life fighting it. She’s been a part of our program for a few years, we often bring her on these trips. She was supposed to come with us on this trip. She was very sick the day we left so she couldn’t come. This was our way of honoring her. But she was in our dugout tonight. She felt better and I’m convinced that’s why we didn’t play last night — we were waiting for her.”

Hepker posted a quick message on her Facebook page Friday saying she made it to Oklahoma City 24 hours after being discharged.

“Didn’t miss one game,” she wrote. “The power of prayer. Huge thanks to so many people who made this possible (you know who you are). Big thanks to Mom. Thanks for keeping me (on) track to fight. Like telling me Tuesday night when I thought I was dying ‘straighten up & I haven’t let you die yet!’ LOL and to the St. Joes staff who worked extra hard with me because they wanted me in Oklahoma too!”