A robot helped make an A’s fan’s dream of throwing out a first pitch come true.
Nick LeGrande is a 13-year-old Oakland A’s fan from Kansas City, Missouri, who currently suffers from the rare blood disorder acute aplastic anemia. Due to the disorder, his immune system has been weakened significantly so he can no longer attend baseball games to see his A’s play baseball when they come to town.
LeGrande was on his way to his grandmother’s house 1,800 miles away from the site of Wednesday’s A’s-Yankees matchup when, little did he know, his family had a big surprise waiting for him.
With help from Google, the LeGrande family constructed a miniature baseball stadium in their home, complete with a pitcher’s mound, bleachers and real grass from Kaufmann Stadium, which is the home of the Kansas City Royals.
He was going to throw out the first pitch of the A’s game from Kansas City.
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Oakland A’s pitcher Ryan Cook helped put the moment together with help from his girlfriend’s sister, who works for Google.
“I thought it would be an amazing thing to be a part of, to make somebody’s dream come true,” Cook said. "And once it came to me, I started at the bottom of the ladder here at the clubhouse and took it to the Athletics and hoped they’d be supportive of it. We got nothing but support all the way up, and from there it was pretty seamless and easy for me. I just sat back and let it all transpire.”
Another part of the story needs to be mentioned.
The robot that helped LeGrande’s pitch cross the plate into Cook’s glove was a telerobotic pitching machine. While it was on the mound in Oakland, it followed the movements of LeGrande via an Android application that allowed him to control the movements of the robot in Oakland. Attached to the robot was a camera that streamed live video to LeGrande in Kansas City.
It is believed that this is the first robotic first pitch in major league history.
“Unbelievable,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin before the pitch. “Hopefully it makes his day a good day. We’re all for it. It should be interesting … I’ve never seen it before. I’m interested to see how it goes. It’s pretty cool in that it gets to be done from somewhere else for someone who can’t be here and who apparently is an A’s fan.”
After LeGrande threw out his first pitch, Cook encouraged the fans in attendance to become bone marrow donors.
“That a boy, Nick, pretty good arm there, bud,” Cook said to LeGrande. “Congratulations, bud, you’re in the big leagues.”
The ball that was tossed to Cook will be signed by the entire Oakland A’s team and presented to LeGrande when the A’s travel to Kansas City for a series against the Royals in July.
Watch the first pitch below: