Sister Mary Jo Sobieck, a nun of the Dominican Order of Springfield, who was bestowed the honor of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch in celebration of Marian Catholic High School’s 60th anniversary threw a strike — and went viral on social media.
It’s Saturday night, Aug. 18. The White Sox are taking on the Kansas City Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field. The pitcher takes the mound with ball and mitt.
Rather than the common wind-up, the pitcher does a quick toss in the air and rolls the ball down the forearm and back up into the hand before executing a perfect strike. Aside from that showy lighthearted toss, it was much like any strike a major league pitcher hopes to throw to the batter from an opposing team at the plate. But, this wasn’t just any pitch.
And this wasn’t a typical pitcher.
The scenario that was played out involved Sister Mary Jo Sobieck, a nun of the Dominican Order of Springfield, who was bestowed the honor of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch in celebration of Marian Catholic High School’s 60th anniversary. The school’s marching band was also there that night to help celebrate the school’s milestone.
Not only did Sister Mary Jo wow the crowd, but she impressed the White Sox players and management and within hours, the video of her pitch had gone viral and was being seen around the country.
The playful toss helped calm nerves and helped her throw the ball more naturally. As a former shortstop and outfielder, Sister Mary Jo was accustomed to grabbing a ball in motion for a throw, rather than tossing from a stationary stance.
“Having played softball in high school and college, I was totally in my element,” she said. “I had just enough nerves to stay focused, but I was confident at the same time. It felt very natural.”
The sophomore and junior theology teacher has been teaching at Marian Catholic High School since 2007. Sister Mary Jo grew up in an active family of 10 kids in Minnesota. After graduating from Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Minnesota in 1987, she played shortstop for the Vermillion Community College softball team in Ely, Minnesota and center field for The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.
In a post-game press conference, White Sox Manager Rick Renteria talked about his interaction with Sister Mary Jo.
“She was talking to someone and she wanted to warm-up,” he said. “She had a mitt and a ball, so she gave him the mitt and she stepped back at about 45 feet and she threw a bullet. He threw it back to her and she fielded it bare-handed and I thought, ‘OK, she looks like she can play a little bit’ and so we started talking to her. I think she said she played center and short and I said, ‘Can you play for us?’”
“They were very hospitable and mentioned how great it was to see my enthusiasm,” Sister Mary Jo said of the White Sox staff. “Rick Renteria and Joe McEwing (bench coach) gave me their cards and invited me back for another game. They were totally jazzed!”
Since throwing that pitch, Sister Mary Jo has gotten so much attention that school officials had lost track of how many media outlets had been in touch: WGN Radio, USA Today, Good Morning America. Sister Mary Jo has been all over in print and on radio and television. Her story was even picked up by news stations in Japan and Australia.
And like many athletic stars, Sister Mary Jo will have her own bobblehead, made available through the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, with pre-orders being taken at store.bobbleheadhall.com with $5 from the sale of each bobblehead going to Marian Catholic High School.
While the whirlwind of internet fame has been exciting, Sister Mary Jo is most appreciative for the positive light it has shined on the school.
“It’s been a profound blessing. I’m happy that people are able to see that Catholic schools are nothing out of the ordinary. They are places that encourage kids to nurture and share their God-given talents and ultimately find joy in others’ diversity,” she said.
“I’m glad my personality and commitment to religious life, my love for sports and love for God have been able to bridge that. Hopefully I am an example for kids to take risks and to say, ‘Nothing’s too big for me to try.’ You just have to say ‘yes,’ and let God do what God is going to do.”