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Pittsburgh Pirates honor Mercy nun as ‘Fan of the Game’ on opening day

By GARY LONCKI
Catholic News Service

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- Seated in her wheelchair parked on the sun-drenched field next to the Pittsburgh Pirate dugout, Mercy Sister Mary Bride Diamond peered excitedly over a railing to see her favorite players enter from the clubhouse.
Her special access was part of being the Pirates’ “Fan of the Game” April 5, opening day at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
“I’m so excited ... I’m getting goose bumps,” she said as the Pirates in their bright white uniforms began to fill the dugout ready to play the Philadelphia Phillies. Sister Mary Bride was in uniform, too. Her official home jersey, given to her by the major league team, boldly proclaimed her name across the back: “Diamond.” Underneath that, she wore a black, Pirates’ jersey, courtesy of her niece, Victoria Curran, bearing the name “Bride” across the back and a black Pirate shirt, a gift from a group of Secular Franciscans.
Her eyes grew wide as third-baseman Pedro Alvarez was the first player to pay her a visit. Then came second-baseman Neil Walker followed by centerfielder Andrew McCutchen. Each kissed her on the cheek, chatted and autographed her mitt and several baseballs before posing with her for photos.
“This is just so wonderful. I can’t believe it!” she said as the Pirates honored one of their most loyal fans. Team president Frank Coonelly; Bob Nutting, the Pirates’ principal owner, and Greg Brown, Pirates play-by-play announcer visited, too.
A lifelong Pirate fan, Sister Mary Bride is no stranger to baseball. In the 1940s, she proved herself to be quite a ballplayer in the Pittsburgh area. In fact, a professional girls’ baseball team wanted to sign her to a contract. However, she had to finish high school first, causing her to miss the opportunity of signing with a team.
Once graduated, she worked for a department store and eventually found her way to the Sisters of Mercy. But she continued to follow the Pirates.
Her story was detailed in the Sisters of Mercy news magazine, “In HARMONY,” and on the community’s website last fall. After the story was carried by Catholic News Service, it appeared in the Pittsburgh Catholic, the diocesan newspaper, and readers began to contact the Pirates asking that she be honored in some way.
As part of the opening-day ceremonies, Brown called Sister Mary Bride to an area in front of home plate to be honored. Surrounded by a small group of family members and friends, she listened as Brown read portions of the “In HARMONY” story about her to nearly 40,000 fans.
Brown said the Pirates were recognizing her for her baseball career, loyalty to the Pirates and service to the Pittsburgh community as a Sister of Mercy.
Once formally introduced, Sister Mary Bride, smiling broadly, pumped her arms into the air several times, responding to a thunderous ovation. Fans -- including Mercy sisters, family and friends in the stands -- watched the ceremony on the Jumbotron screen that towered over centerfield. Back at the convent, sisters and staff watching on television cheered as her jubilant face filled the screen.
Curran, her niece from Columbiana, Ohio, had organized support for Sister Mary Bride by inviting family members from Pennsylvania, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Father Robert George, Sisters of Mercy chaplain, was also part of the entourage for the game, during which the Phillies nipped the Pirates 1-0.
“This is about her living her dream and sharing it with her family and friends,” Curran said.
At the Convent of Mercy before the game, met with family members and posed for photos, several of which had her ready to throw a baseball as she held her mitt in front of her.
Leaving the field and for the stands, Sister Mary Bride was cheered by several fans and responded with a wave.
“This is the best gift anyone has given me,” she beamed.

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