Sister Mary Jo’s mojo: Local nun up for ESPY after dazzling strike before White Sox’ game

Sister Mary Jo Sobieck learned two weeks ago that her dazzling strike was nominated for a 2019 ESPY Award in the category of “Best Viral Sports Moment.”

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Sister Mary Jo Sobieck fired the perfect strike before a White Sox game and now she’s up for an ESPY.

Courtesy of Marian Catholic High School

Sister Mary Jo Sobieck never intended to go viral. It just sort of happened.

In the blink of an eye, Sister Mary Jo, a theology teacher at Marian Catholic High School in south suburban Chicago Heights, became a social-media sensation last August after she threw an unforgettable ceremonial first pitch at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Instead of sporting a customized White Sox jersey, Sister Mary Jo wore a Marian Catholic T-shirt over her traditional white tunic along with her black veil.

On the back of her shirt, there was the number 60, which some joked stood for the speed of her fastball. (In reality, it was in honor of Marian Catholic’s 60th year as a school.)

Sister Mary Jo, who played softball and volleyball at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, knew she had the arm to make it from the mound to the plate. But she was concerned she might be rusty.

Nevertheless, Sister Mary Jo was confident as she pranced to the mound. When she got there, she pointed to the sky for her late mother, and then, in Babe Ruth fashion, she pointed her glove toward right-hander Lucas Giolito, who was positioned behind the plate. In a quick motion, she bumped the baseball off her biceps and hurled it at Giolito.

“She fired a perfect strike on the outer third,” Giolito recalled last week. “It was super impressive.”

Chicago Cubs v Chicago White Sox

Sister Mary Jo Sobieck used the momentum from her bicep bump to throw a perfect strike to White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito.

David Banks/Getty Images

Within two hours, a video of Sister Mary Jo’s curveball strike received thousands of views, which quickly multiplied into millions.

Over the next three days, Sister Mary Jo, who earned the nickname “Sister Strike,” hardly had time to sleep. She made the rounds on all the national morning shows. Despite the ongoing freshman orientation, Marian Catholic turned into a media madhouse as camera crews and reporters paraded into the gym.

And it didn’t end there.

Sister Mary Jo had a bobblehead made in her honor and received her own Topps baseball card. She also was invited to be a contestant on Nickelodeon’s “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”

“It just seems like it can’t get better,” she told the Sun-Times in a phone interview.

But the most recent honor might be the icing on the cake.

Sister Mary Jo learned two weeks ago that her dazzling strike was nominated for a 2019 ESPY Award in the category of “Best Viral Sports Moment.” She’s up against some stiff competition, including UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi’s perfect 10 floor routine.

“I imagine the ESPY nomination might have increased the value of my baseball card,” Sister Mary Jo quipped with a laugh.

For those who personally know Sister Mary Jo, her viral success isn’t a surprise. She has been an iconic figure at Marian Catholic for well over a decade.

Sister Mary Jo has always been witty and fun-loving. The 50-year-old nun also has a knack for connecting with students. She’s the Marian Catholic equivalent to Loyola’s Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, who received widespread attention during the Ramblers’ 2018 Final Four run.

“She is a walking ball of energy,” Marian Catholic principal Steven Tortorello said of Sister Mary Jo. “She is like a superhero who jumps off the page. It’s funny, in all of the interviews and everything she’s done, everyone’s like, ‘Man, who coaches that nun? She’s so good, she’s so polished.’ And we’re like, ‘Nobody coached her, and nobody could coach her.’ ”

Despite a busier schedule and strangers asking for selfies, Sister Mary Jo said that her life has remained fairly normal and that she hasn’t been treated differently.

“When this happened, the student body celebrated it because they were happy for me and they were happy for their school and they knew me and they could celebrate and tell people, ‘That’s our teacher,’ ” she said. “We had a lot of good fun with it throughout the year.”

Voting for the ESPYs will continue until the award show begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN.

Regardless of the outcome, Sister Mary Jo said this whirlwind of a year has been incredibly humbling.

“I’ve been deliberate in saying we haven’t gone seeking any of this,” she said. “That’s why I just trust this is God’s profound blessing.

“Because I wear the traditional habit, God has put me in positions or places where people are seeing the church in a different way. It’s young, it’s joyful, it’s optimistic, it’s genuine, the church is still credible. I still want to be an ambassador for Christ and the relevance for faith in our world today. Our culture needs that, and I think God is planting me in places to represent that.”

Contributing:Daryl Van Schouwen

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