Mixed in the crowd of athletes and celebrities at the 2019 ESPY Awards on Wednesday was one unusual face: Sister Mary Jo Sobieck!
The Dominican nun, dressed in her signature habit, walked the red carpet at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, where the annual event — which celebrates excellence in sports performance — was taking place.
In a sea of stars including Sandra Bullock, Usher, Russell Wilson, Ciara, Dwyane Wade, Gabrielle Union, Drew Brees, Elle Fanning, Zachary Levi, and Linda Cardellini, Sobieck sure stood out. But it turns out, she was up for a big award: best viral sports moment.
Last August, Sister Mary Jo made headlines when she threw a perfect strike while making the ceremonial first pitch at a White Sox game against the Kansas City Royals.
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In a video taken from the impressive showing, the nun — who was again wearing her habit as well as a jersey for Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, where she works — wound up like a pro before sending the ball straight into the catcher’s mitt.
Prior to officially starting off the game, Sobieck wowed the crowd by showing off a little trick she could do with a baseball. With a big smile on her face, the nun began things by throwing the ball back to her elbow, and bouncing it back into her hand.
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White Sox catcher Lucas Giolito was behind the plate to catch her perfect pitch. He told MLB.com after the game that the whole experience “was awesome.”
“She had a whole routine. She had it planned out. I was just lucky to be back there. She threw a perfect pitch,” he remarked, adding that Sobieck had played softball growing up.
Rick Renteria, White Sox manager, explained to the outlet that after seeing what Sobieck could do, he offered her a spot on the bench.
“She was pretty good, actually,” he remarked. “I said to her, ‘Can you play for us?’ She said, ‘Sure,’ ”
Sobieck is an assistant coach for one of Marian Catholic High School’s varsity volleyball teams and previously played both softball and volleyball while attending The College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota.
As part of her first teaching post since becoming a nun in 1996, she also helped coach volleyball at a grade school in Aurora, Illinois.
And while all that — plus a lot of practice — helped Sobieck succeed while at the plate, she ended up losing her category on Thursday, to viral UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi.
The 2019 ESPYS, presented by Capital One and hosted by Tracy Morgan, are airing Thursday (at 8 p.m. EST) on ABC.