By JD Flynn
A religious sister can expect that if she is faithful to her vows, fervent in prayer, and zealous in following Jesus, her face might someday wind up on the front of a holy card.
But few religious sisters expect ever to find themselves on a baseball card.
But for Sister Mary Jo Sobieck, OP, she’ll premiere on a Topps baseball card this summer.
The sister, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, caught attention from baseball scouts and casual fans last year, when she threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Chicago White Sox game last August.
The sister bounced the ball off her bicep before delivering a strike straight over the plate.
Sobieck, a teacher at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois, didn’t expect her pitch to go viral. But it did. Video clips got millions of views, made ESPN’s Sportscenter highlight reel, and were featured in national media.
The sister is no stranger to a baseball diamond. She played shortstop on the softball team at Cathedral Catholic High School in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and continued playing softball at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.
“Growing up, I was naturally gifted as an athlete — that was my God-given gift,” Sobieck told the Duluth News Tribune last year.
“To be a good athlete, you have to be strong in body, mind, and spirit,” Sobieck told Runner’s World.
“There will be times that you’ll lose, and you have to know how to prepare your mind for those failures. Striving towards sainthood requires the same level of discipline, humility, and stick-to-it-ness.”
After Sobieck’s pitch, Topps decided to place her on a baseball card in their Allen and Ginter series, which features baseball players along celebrities.
Patrick O’Sullivan, Topps Associate Brand Manager, told CNA that “Sister Mary Jo was a perfect fit for this particular product – 2019 Topps Allen and Ginter – in which we feature both baseball players and figures in the public eye. After her iconic first pitch at last year’s White Sox game, we felt this was a great tribute to the moment.”
“Baseball is for everyone from every walk of life. That’s what makes it so special and fun to be a fan,” O’Sullivan added, noting that Sobiek talked with Topps about her favorite ballplayer, Ken Griffey, Jr., and her childhood team, the Minnesota Twins.
Sobieck, 49, earned $1,000 for appearing on the card, which she intends to donate for a scholarship fund in her name at Marian Catholic High School.
Though her baseball card debut is complete, Sister Sobieck fans and memorabilia collectors will be waiting, most likely a while, for the release of that holy card.