Sister keeps ‘the book’
The baseball team’s manager loves the game, her team and numbers.
Although Sister Tracey Uphoff calls the Bishop O’Connell High School baseball team her “boys” and herself the team mom, she’s not much older than her senior players. Sister Tracey, a member of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), is finishing the second year of her mission at the Arlington high school and her side job as manager of the baseball team.
Sister Tracey was born and raised in Havertown, Pa. outside Philadelphia. She grew up loving sports, playing softball and watching her father coach the local Little League team. Her father taught her how to keep score — “keeping the book,” as it’s called in baseball parlance.
“My dad got me into baseball,” she said. “I’m a big Phillies fan.”
Although she loves sports in general, it’s baseball that captured her imagination and the meticulous detail it takes to keep score during a game. This interest in numbers and statistics may have spurred her on to earn a degree in and to teach mathematics.
After graduating from Merion Mercy Academy in Merion Station, Pa., in 2003, she enrolled at Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pa., and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in math and chemistry in 2007. She took her first vows at the IHM mother house in Immaculata in August 2011.
Sister Tracy’s first mission — what the IHM call assignments — is at O’Connell.
When she arrived at the Arlington school for the 2011-12 school year, she asked then-coach Rick Hart if he needed any help with the team.
“I know how to keep the book,” she told Hart.
Hart invited her to help manage the team and track the statistics.
But keeping score is just part of her job. There’s a personal touch that she adds to the team — like bringing a lucky charm to all the games.
“I bring them Goldfish,” she said of the snack food that the players enjoy. The lucky charms may not have helped the team reach the playoffs, but the players expect it.
“I’ve been able to make a connection with the guys,” she said.
The players ask her help with math, of course, but also science and religion, and they value her opinion on other matters too. And she prays the rosary during games.
Sister Tracey also talks to the players who sit on the bench and never get to play.
“I try to make them feel a part of the game,” she said.
Although still a Phillies fan, she said her second favorite team is the Nationals. She roots for the Eagles, too, and she went to an Eagles/Redskins game last year.
The animosity between the two fan bases is legendary.
She told the story of a Redskin fan who came to the game with his 5-year-old son and father. The three were in the seats in front. Sister Tracey was wearing an Eagles jersey, and wore no identifying clothes that said she was a religious sister.
The father of the young boy went to get some nachos and told his father to watch the boy. The grandfather was ignoring his grandson who was climbing around the seat. Sister Tracey took the boy and picked him up and played with him to keep him occupied. When the father returned he smiled and said, “You just changed the impression I’ve had of Eagle fans for the past 20 years.”
Her time at O’Connell may be ending soon. Sister Tracey said her final vows will be professed sometime in 2016. She most likely will have to do a second mission before that happens and that would mean leaving her beloved Knights.
“I’m trying to prepare myself,” she said. “I love the school. I love my boys.”