Sick 13-year-old will throw out first pitch from 1,800 miles away with the help of a robot

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

The first pitch at Wednesday's New York Yankees-Oakland Athletics game will be both history-making and heart-tugging. That's because 13-year-old Nick LeGrande — with the help of Google's technology wizards — will throw out the first pitch from 1,800 miles away in Kansas City.

No, it's not the longest game of long toss ever, it's actually what's believed to be the first telerobotic first pitch ever. Let us explain: LeGrande is a Little League star who is suffering from a rare blood disorder called severe aplastic anemia. Because of that, he's not allowed to be around big crowds and he certainly can't play baseball right now.

So Google, with A's relief pitcher Ryan Cook acting as the go-between, devised a way for LeGrande to throw out the first pitch with a robotic pitching machine that mirrors his movements. Cook will catch the first pitch. LeGrande, though he lives in Kansas City, is an A's fan.

Michael Gray from the San Francisco Chronicle's Drumbeat blog explains how the first pitch will happen:

Before tonight’s game begins, however, LeGrande and his parents, Mike and Shari LeGrande, will be taken to a mini-baseball stadium, specially constructed by Google at its Kansas City offices. Nick’s friends, doctors and former teammates will all be in attendance, too.

The telerobotic pitching machine, meanwhile, will sit atop the pitcher’s mound in Oakland. The 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 Coliseum ... The same technology is used to perform remote operations aboard the International Space Station and allows doctors to perform surgery in remote areas.

Watch the video above, but be forewarned you might get a little misty by the end. You can follow the event on Twitter using the hashtag #NicksFirstPitch and since this is Google and MLB, we're certain there will be videos to share of what happens during Nick's pitch.

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