The Baker Orange

Mother-daughter pair bleed orange

Story by Taylor Shuck, Editor

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For 14 years, Chief Human Resources Officer Connie Deel and her mother Ann Fothergill, or “Pud” as she is lovingly called, have traveled to all Baker women’s basketball games.

“It’s just our thing,” Deel said.

In 2000, the mother-daughter pair decided that they needed something to do together. Both Fothergill and Deel graduated from Baker, along with Deel’s father and her siblings, and Deel said Baker orange runs in her blood.

Fothergill played intramural basketball when she was a student at Baker. Deel was an adviser for Phi Mu sorority, and the sorority president at that time was a player for the Wildcats. The university and its athletics are near and dear to their hearts.

“I promised my mom that I would come to Baker for one year to try it out,” Deel said. “I thought I could do one year anywhere. And then I just fell in love with it, and now I’m still here.”

Since then, they have traveled near and far to watch the Wildcats play. They’ve been fans through three coaches, two wins at MidAmerica Nazarene University and now the first year as a nationally-ranked team.

“We love to see them play and learn what moves they’re going to do next,” Deel said. “They’ve had great players throughout the years, but this year they just started winning and never stopped.”

The mother-daughter duo was at first mistaken for parents due to their dedication to travel and watching the games, but once the parents and coaches found out they were just fans of the team, they were included in both phone and email groups.

And if their support wasn’t enough, Deel and Fothergill bring the Wildcats treats as well.

“We are firm believers that girls need chocolates, so we try to bring them treats whether we win or lose,” Deel said. “We love to go and the students are great. They appreciate us and are warm.”

Deel and Fothergill know that it’s difficult for some parents to travel to games, so they try to stay consistent and fill the stands with their cheers. Baker alumna Courtney Craig knows that the following for women’s sports historically is less than that of men’s.

Craig became aware of Deel and Fothergill’s enthusiasm for the women’s team when she met the pair at a playoff football game. She was surprised to learn that they would be leaving the game early in order to watch the women’s basketball game.

“It’s fun to sit with them at the games,” Craig said. “They know all the players and they know how they play, but they know them off the court, too. They know these girls’ lives and it’s just fun. But they genuinely enjoy watching the team play, and I really do think it’s what the true Baker spirit is about.”

By this time in the season, the team expects the dynamic duo to be present at its games. Many Wildcats appreciate their support and commitment.

“I love when they come to our games,” junior Rashida Simpson said. “Win or lose, they are our most positive fans. They travel to all our games, home or away, and they spend their hard-earned money to come watch us play. It really shows how much love and support we have from not just them, but everyone in the Baker community.”

By now, the women know the roads to NAIA colleges by heart, and even have a notebook full of shortcuts, good restaurants and fun shopping stops on the way to the games.

While Fothergill, who is almost 80 years old, might be slowing down, Deel doesn’t see an end to their travels in the near future. She doesn’t want fame or glory for her dedication, all she asks for is a pass to all home games when she retires.

“Our fans are seriously loyal to Baker, and we have a good following at Baker,” Craig said. “But I think it takes a special pair to trek up to Iowa in the dead of winter to cheer on these women.”

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