Henry Rowengartner? No, not even the kid from Rookie of the Year could pull this off. Thirteen-year-old Nick LeGrande will throw out the first pitch tonight at Oakland’s O.co Coliseum prior to the Yankees-A’s game, even though he’ll be 1,800 miles away in his hometown of Kansas City. A telerobotic pitching machine will be on the mound actually throwing the pitch, with Nick directing it remotely.
Nick has been diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called severe aplastic anemia, which makes traveling and being around large crowds impossible. He’s a baseball fanatic who grew up playing Little League, and when A’s reliever Ryan Cook heard about his story, he helped bring the LeGrande family together with Google to make tonight’s history-making pitch possible.
The A’s say it’s believed to be the first telerobotic first pitch in Major League Baseball history. The same technology is used to perform remote operations aboard the International Space Station and allows doctors to perform surgery in remote areas.
The telerobotic pitching machine will follow Nick’s movements as he winds up and throws, allowing him to throw the pitch remotely and to see it happen at O.co Coliseum.
It will all happen on Nick’s end in a mini-baseball stadium constructed at Google’s Kansas city offices.
Nick’s mother, Shari LeGrande:
“I’ve only seen him cry one time throughout this whole ordeal. That was when we were in the hospital, and the doctors come in, and he asks, ‘Am I going to be able to play baseball?’ And the doctor goes ‘No, I don’t think you’re going to be playing baseball this year.’ He just started crying. You know, the doctors didn’t know how much he loves baseball.”
Later tonight, the whole country will know.
Bob Melvin is hoping the machine can give him six solid innings. Um, someone want to break it to him how this works?