Google Fiber Making Dreams Come True With Telerobotic Pitching Arm

Nick LeGrande will throw the first-ever telerobotic pitch tonight at 7 p.m.

High-speed internet matters, and Google Fiber is proving that tonight when 13-year-old Nick LeGrande gets to throw the first pitch tonight at the A’s vs. Yankees game in California, only he will be in Kansas City at the time. LeGrande will deliver a pitch at Kansas City’s Google Fiber Space that triggers a telerobotic pitching arm halfway across the country to throw the ceremonial first pitch. This will be the first time in history that this has ever happened.

LeGrande, a huge baseball fan, is battling a rare blood disorder called aplastic anemia, which damages the bone marrow and blood stem cells. He was diagnosed January 22, 2013. Because of his diagnosis, he isn’t allowed to participate in sports, including his favorite, baseball.

“What’s important about tonight is that Nick is a huge baseball fan and he actually was a baseball player, and a pretty good one at that,” said Jaszianne Tolbert, MD, pediatric hematologist at Children’s Mercy and LeGrande’s doctor. “Since his diagnosis he’s been unable to play the sport simply because he really doesn’t have the stamina because his blood volume is so low and he needs weekly transfusions of blood product so that puts a damper on him doing very much activity at all.”

With the help of technology and LeGrande’s family and friends, this will be the first time anything like this has been attempted. Google Fiber has partnered with Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City to help make kids’ dreams come true.

“Through Google Fiber and their fiber optics he will be able to activate the robotic arm [from here in Kansas City] and it will activate the arm at the Oakland and Yankees baseball game tonight,” said Tolbert.

LeGrande doesn’t know he will be participating in this opportunity tonight because his parents have taken away his iPad and iPhone and they are monitoring him closely. He will be let in on the event at 6 p.m. and the pitch will be thrown an hour later at 7 p.m.

“He’s actually going to be pitching to Ryan Cook who is an Oakland A’s pitcher, who’s a big fan of this story and quickly became a big fan of nick,” said Jake Jacobson, national media relations manager at Children’s Mercy Hospital. “He is the reason this all happened and the reason why this all happening out in Oakland tonight. This robot will throw a pitch to [Cook] who will then congratulate [LeGrande] on the big screen and make that connection.”

Google Fiber and Children’s Mercy have set up a webpage with more information, videos, photos and live updates on Nick’s First Pitch at g.co/nicksfirstpitch. For those interested in Tweeting, they will be using the hashtag, #NicksFirstPitch. Tonight they will be updating the site with more photos of Nick’s First Pitch and people can follow along while LeGrande delivers the first pitch in front of nearly 40,000 fans.

LeGrande’s family and Children’s Mercy want to encourage people to look into donating bone marrow because it’s easier than most people think.

“I think the main thing to come out of this, and this is straight from [LeGrande’s] parents themselves, is that while this is obviously a great opportunity for [LeGrande] and it will be something he will never forget, the biggest impact this could have is to encourage people to sign up and look into becoming a bone-marrow donor,” said Jacobson. “A lot of people are scared of that for whatever reason when really it’s easier than giving blood.”

Jacobson says that a good place for people to find out if they can donate bone marrow is BeTheMatch.org.