An eight-year-old girl born with a rare birth defect threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Saturday night’s Indians game thanks to a 3D printed hand. Her trip to Progressive Field marked the eighth different ballpark in which she’s delivered the first pitch as she and her family plan to see all 30 ballparks by season’s end.
Hailey Dawson was born with Poland Syndrome, a rare birth defect affecting 1 out of every 100,000 babies born each year. The birth defect causes the underdevelopment of the chest muscle on one side of the body and is commonly associated with the webbing of the fingers of the hand on the same side of the body.
“When she was born, we wanted to make sure it was a non-issue for her,” said Hailey’s mother, Yong Dawson. “As a mom you want your kids to be happy.”
A mother’s love has no bounds. Dawson got into contact with researchers at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to inquire about the possibility of having a 3D printed hand created for Hailey, which would allow her to have the same mobility and dexterity of any young girl.
It wasn’t hard to convince them. Before Dawson knew it, Hailey had her very own bionic hand. Hailey calls it her robot hand. It allows her to do pretty much anything – including holding and throwing a baseball. Several Indians stars signed Hailey’s hand during a meet-and-greet before Saturday night’s tilt against the Houston Astros.
“It’s really fun. You get players to sign your ball or [the 3D printed hand],” Hailey said. “It’s amazing.”
A couple of years ago, Dawson, whose husband is from the Baltimore area and an avid Orioles fan, contacted the team’s front office to see if Hailey could throw out the first pitch. Team officials, of course, said yes and Hailey got to throw out the first pitch to her favorite player, Manny Machado.
Then, the family reached out to Bryce Harper, who’s also from Las Vegas, to see if Hailey could throw out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. The team, of course, said yes as well. One thing led to another and the ‘Journey to 30’ trip was born.
“People dream of going to all 30 ballparks,” Dawson said. “We’re doing it. She’s throwing a pitch in every single one. It’s the craziest thing. I get nervous for her. She walks out there. She does it and does a little dance at the end.”
The 3D printed hand undoubtedly gives Hailey some notoriety. Above all else, however, it gives her normalcy.
“She doesn’t understand the awareness she’s spreading,” Dawson said. “I always tell her that she inspires people. She says, ‘I’m just being Hailey. That’s just me.’ I’m amazed by all of it.”
If all goes according to plan, Hailey will throw out the first pitch at all 30 stadiums by mid-September.