HOUSTON — When 7-year-old Hailey Dawson got off the airplane for the World Series, there were a couple hundred people waiting to greet her. You’d think she were Jose Altuve.
She was so taken aback, she just stopped in her tracks. All this? For her?
“She was shocked,” says Yong Dawson, Hailey’s mother.
Oh, how life has changed in just two months for Hailey, who lives near Las Vegas and was born with Poland syndrome, a rare birth defect that caused her to only have three fingers.
You might have heard about Hailey’s story and how she got here. In July, a story by Sports Techie recounted how, with the help of professors and researchers at UNLV, Hailey was outfitted with a 3-D printed prosthetic hand. With that hand, Hailey decided she wanted to throw out a first pitch in all 30 MLB parks. When Bleacher Report told the story of Hailey’s quest, it quickly spread. In fact, it got bigger than Hailey and her family could have imagined.
Various MLB teams were offering to let Hailey throw out a first pitch. But then the big call came. It was Major League Baseball with a different offer: Come throw out the first pitch at the World Series. And that’s just what she did Saturday night before Game 4.
Hailey — sporting a new gold and blue World Series-themed 3-D printed hand with “Vegas Strong” and “UNLV” on it — stood a few feet away from Altuve, the Astros star second baseman, and heaved the first pitch underhand in his direction.
“It’s been amazing,” Yong Dawson said prior to the first pitch. “She’s so excited. She’s excited about showing off her hand and throwing out a first pitch. She’s not nervous whatsoever.”
The hand she used most frequently was decorated in Washington Nationals colors because their pitcher Erick Fedde, who is also from the Las Vegas area, has helped Hailey with her baseball-throwing technique.
As Minute Maid Park erupted a night earlier, during Game 3 as the Astros took a lead over the Dodgers, Hailey’s mom took the Nats-themed hand out of her purse and let Hailey put it on to show Yahoo Sports. While the cheers rang through the ballpark for the Astros, Hailey sounded like, well, a 7-year-old.
What it’s like to be at the World Series?
What’s your favorite part?
What are you going to do?
That’s when her excitement in her voice jumps up a bit.
“Throw out the first pitch of the World Series.”
Are you nervous?
She shakes her head — with a tinge of confidence on her face.
Before Game 4, Hailey got the World Series celebrity treatment. She met New York Yankees great Mariano Rivera and Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, the latter of whom gave her custom shoes.
Since she got the news about the World Series, Hailey has been working with Fedde, her family and people at UNLV to practice her first pitch. The big question was whether she’d throw overhand or underhand. She’s thrown out a couple other first pitches and opted for underhand.
But this time, Yong says, Hailey really wanted to try it overhand.
“We want her to throw it underhand,” Yong said. “But she’s got it in her head to throw overhand. She wants to so bad.”
She opted for underhand. But since Hailey’s goal is to toss out a first pitch in all 30 MLB parks, she’ll have plenty of time to master the overhand thing.
She definitely sounds determined enough. And brave enough.
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