A girl with a 3D-printed hand threw out the first pitch Saturday in game 3 of the Padres Opening Day series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Hailey Dawson, 8, of Las Vegas, was born with a rare birth defect called Poland Syndrome, which causes her to have missing or underdeveloped fingers on her right hand as well as an underdeveloped chest muscle. That, though, hasn’t stopped her from her goal of throwing out the first pitch at all 30 major league ballparks.
She’s previously pitched for the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and game 4 of the World Series last year. The Padres were her fourth stop in her “Journey to 30,” and her first of the 2018 season.
When Hailey’s parents first contacted UNLV's Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering for help four years ago, they didn’t know how much the 3D-printed hand would change her life. Over the course of three years, the students and faculty at UNLV designed multiple 3D-printed hands that have allowed Hailey to grab, grasp and throw.
“Initially we looked at it like a functional type thing, but slowly it became a confidence builder for her,” said Yong Dawson, Hailey's mother.
Hailey’s first-ever ceremonial first pitch was at a UNLV Rebels game when she was 5 years old. Last fall, Bleacher Report picked up Hailey’s story and tweeted out a video asking MLB teams to help Hailey meet her goal of pitching at all 30 MLB ballparks. The response was overwhelmingly positive, her family said.
“We like the idea of a community-based design where we're using our research and resources to help someone,” UNLV mechanical engineering professor Brendan O'Toole said. “That, coupled with 3D-printing improvements in the last couple of years, made for some pretty good design opportunities. And it can make all the difference in the world of making Hailey more comfortable or safe.”
A traditional prosthetic hand would normally cost upwards of $20,000 — unfeasible for a growing girl, but a 3D-printed hand costs approximately $5,000, according to UNLV.
Hailey and her family are using her love of baseball and the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at MLB parks to bring attention to Poland Syndrome and cost-effective solutions for children. Hailey’s story is already helping others. The Herreras, another Las Vegas family, heard about Hailey’s hand and contacted the school and now UNLV engineering students are working to create a custom-printed hand for their daughter too.
Hailey is currently scheduled to throw out the first pitch at 24 more parks this year, with additional teams still being scheduled.