October 18, 2018
At the tail end of summer, Hailey Dawson stepped up to the plate at Angel Stadium, in Anaheim, California. The 8-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada, was about to throw the ceremonial first pitch. She was also about to achieve her goal to throw a pitch at all 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) stadiums. Hailey did it with what she calls her “robot hand.”
Hailey was born with Poland syndrome. In Hailey’s case, this means she has an underdeveloped hand. She is missing the middle three fingers on her right hand and has a tiny pinky and thumb. A 3D-printed prosthetic hand lets Hailey hold a baseball.
When Hailey was 4, her mom, Yong Dawson, found a blueprint online for a 3D-printed hand. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), agreed to make it for her.
In 2015, a year after Hailey got it, Yong asked the Baltimore Orioles if Hailey could throw out the first pitch at a game. They said yes.
Two years later, Hailey met Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. “She asked him if she could throw out the first pitch at a game,” Yong told TIME for Kids. “It’s amazing what you can do when you just ask.”
Soon after her Nationals pitch, a video of Hailey expressing her dream to pitch at all 30 MLB stadiums went viral. Other teams wanted to help. Soon, Hailey traveled to Houston, Texas, for Game 4 of the 2017 World Series. With three stadiums down and 27 to go, Hailey’s “Journey to 30” was in play. In 2018, she pitched at more than two dozen MLB stadiums in the United States and Canada.
Her friends at UNLV made 30 unique hands for Hailey’s stadium visits, each with a team’s colors and logo. “There was some crunch time, but we were able to get everything done,” Maria Gerardi told TFK. She is a graduate student who worked on Hailey’s hands. Gerardi says Hailey now has nearly 36 3D-printed hands. Each one takes four days and 16 parts to make.
Hailey says she felt “amazing” after completing her Journey to 30 at Angel Stadium on September 16. But she doesn’t plan to take on another challenge like it anytime soon. “Too much traveling,” she says.