OAKLAND, Calif. -- In what is believed to be a baseball first when it comes to ceremonial first pitches, 13-year-old Nick LeGrande took the toss before the Yankees-Athletics game on Wednesday night from his hometown of Kansas City, Mo., by using a telerobotic pitching machine.
A first pitch from 1,800 miles away - a neat new concept, indeed.
LeGrande is an A's fan with a rare blood disorder called severe aplastic anemia, and the former Little Leaguer's illness no longer allows him to attend games.
LeGrande and his family, including parents Mike and Shari, were taken to a mini baseball stadium. It was constructed by Google at its Kansas City offices - a location close to LeGrande's home and Children's Mercy Hospital, where he receives treatment. Nick's friends, doctors and former teammates were in attendance.
At the same time across the country, a telerobotic pitching machine was placed on the pitcher's mound at the Oakland Coliseum to follow the teen's movements. The technology allowed LeGrande to simultaneously throw the pitch and watch it happen from afar.
In explaining the process, Google said that LeGrande used an Android application allowing him to control the movements of the robot in Oakland. That robot was equipped with a camera, which livestreamed a view of the ballpark to LeGrande in Kansas City.
The A's said it all came together in part through the efforts of reliever Ryan Cook, whose girlfriend's sister works for an agency connected with Google. Oakland officials don't know of any time it being been done before.