By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – If you are in to acts of kindness, then the story of 12-year old Ty Naaktgeboren just keeps getting better.
The Sioux Falls, S.D., native touched the hearts of Hawkeye fans last week by declaring his love for the Iowa football team on national television while participating in Little League World Series.
Naaktgeboren was rewarded for his shout out to the Hawkeyes with four tickers to Iowa’s season opener against Wyoming on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
And now he also has an invitation from UI President Bruce Harreld to attend the president’s pregame tailgate event on Saturday at the Iowa Football Complex. The reception starts at 9 a.m. and will last for approximately one hour.
“I think it’s pretty cool, just the way it’s kind of come together,” said Durk Sterner, who made arrangements for Naaktgeboren to get four tickets to Saturday’s game after learning about what he said on national television. “It’s going to be nice weather and everything.”
President Harreld is expected to introduce Naaktgeboren and his family during the reception.
Naaktgeboren endeared himself to Hawkeye fans while being introduced at the Little League World Series as a member of the team from Sioux Falls. When it came time for him to share something personal, Naaktgeboren paid tribute to his favorite team with the following statement on ESPN:
“My name is Ty Naaktgeboren and my favorite team is the Iowa football team. Go Hawks.”
A video of Naaktgeboren’s introduction was posted on the Hawkeye Heaven Facebook page and it quickly went viral.
A story also was published on All-Hawkeyes.com last week with reaction from Naaktgeboren and from his mother about Sterner’s act of kindness.
"I said seriously, that's the coolest thing ever," said Naaktgeboren's mother, Chelsey.
Harreld read the story about Naaktgeboren on Allhawkeyes and then had his office reach out to Sterner, who works for the University of Iowa as a management services supervisor.
Sterner was touched by what Naaktgeboren said on national television and wanted to show his gratitude. He learned that Naaktgeboren had only seen the Iowa football team play once in person. So Sterner figured that four tickets to the season opener would be the best way to say thanks for Naaktgeboren's loyalty.
Sterner also has reached out to Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller in order to invite him to the tailgate event on Saturday. Heller and members of the Iowa baseball team are scheduled to return from Taiwan late Wednesday night or shortly after midnight. The Iowa baseball team represented Team USA in the World University Games where it won a silver medal, losing to Japan in the title game.
Heller also has led Iowa to the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three seasons, including this past season when Iowa earned an automatic berth by winning the Big Ten Tournament.
Ty Naaktgeboren is an avid baseball fan and he loves playing the sport that carried him to the Little League World Series. A chance to meet Heller would be another way for Iowa to show its gratitude.