Although 45 years of biblical training couldn't have prepared Sister M. Francine Horos of Moon for her experience at the Pittsburgh Pirates game on July 3, she said the Lord was on her side.
Sister Francine of the Felician order from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School was the guest of honor at the Pirates vs. Philadelphia Phillies game. She was given the rare opportunity of throwing out the first pitch at PNC Park.
Wearing a Pirates jersey and with a crucifix around her neck, Sister Francine stood on the pitcher's mound, took a good windup and rainbowed the ball toward home plate on one hop.
The honor was in conjunction with her recent designation as Fan of the Year by the high school for her dedication to the school's sports teams. With the designation came a Pirates duffel bag filled with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Pirates sports memorabilia.
Sister Francine said she received much training prior to her debut on the field, including a half-hour lesson with two Our Lady of the Sacred Heart baseball players who told her how to stand, how to hold the ball, and how and when to release it.
A self-described lifelong Pirates fan, Sister Francine said she doesn't miss too many games.
Her dedication to one her favorite sports teams is mirrored by the support she gives to those at the high school.
When she's not carrying out her responsibilities as a teacher and chairwoman of the math and science department, she can be found cheering on students at every softball, baseball, basketball and volleyball game and cross-country meet.
"I don't miss anything," she said. "I just love being with the kids outside of the classroom.
I think it's just so important for them to see teachers in a different environment."
This love for sports, she said, started at her home in Oil City where she grew up with four brothers -- two of whom were present at the game.
Sister Francine said she was told early on by her mother that if she didn't learn how to play sports and be with the guys, then she would be stuck in the kitchen.
"I didn't want to be in the kitchen, so I enjoy all sports," she said.
A 1968 graduate of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Sister Francine was a member of the basketball team and started the school's bowling team.
She also enjoyed playing tennis and figure skating.
One of her dreams in high school, she said, was to join the Ice Capades, but she said a love for math and the influence of her seventh- and eighth-grade teacher, who was a nun, rerouted her dreams.
When she entered high school at the age of 14, Sister Francine made the life-changing decision to leave home and enroll in the school's residential program for young women who wanted to study for the sisterhood.
"Living there made the difference," she said.
"If I did not leave home, I don't know what I would be doing at this time. Being at OLSH at a very early age had a big influence on me."
This year marks her 32nd year at the school working in a variety of capacities including assistant principal, principal and math teacher.
To those responsibilities Sister Francine can now add throwing out the first pitch at a Pirates game.
As she approached the mound, she said all of the tips she received from the students whom she practiced with were swirling in her mind.
"It was a fantastic feeling, but the anticipation was scary as I was second-guessing if I was ready or not," she said.
Though she was anxious and nervous, Sister Francine said the experience was quite exciting and that her goal was just to get the ball over the plate.
She did just that, then the Pirates beat the Phillies, 6-5.
Sister Francine summed up the entire experience with one word -- awesome.
"Having the support of so many from my community, school and friends at the park made this once-in-a-lifetime venture well worth it," she said.neigh_west
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.