An 8-Year-Old, a 3-D Printed Hand, and 30 MLB Teams
Hailey Dawson’s incredible journey brings her to the Phillies’ ballpark Sunday to throw out the first pitch, and raise awareness about Poland syndrome.
Hailey Dawson, an 8-year-old girl from Henderson, Nevada, will take the mound this Sunday afternoon to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Phillies play the Nationals. She will do so with a 3-D printed robotic hand. Citizens Bank Park is just one stop on her incredible journey to throw out the first pitch for all 30 Major League Baseball teams—and she is already over halfway there!
Hailey was born with Poland syndrome, a rare condition that resulted in her missing three fingers on her right hand at birth. Hailey got her first robotic hand from UNLV in 2014, after her mother Yong Dawson emailed their College of Engineering and they created one especially for her using 3-D printing technology.
Since then, UNLV has made Hailey a new hand for each MLB team she pitches for, and will make her one for all 30—each team sent their logos to the university so they could create the special hands for her. One of Hailey’s favorite things to do is get player autographs on her team customized robotic hand when she goes to pitch at a new team’s park. She also loves dancing with players when she gets the chance (dabbing is her signature move, as you can tell).
“We are so grateful for MLB and the fans. Everyone has been so warm to us and welcomed us to each city thus far,” said Yong in our interview.
Hailey’s journey began when she threw out the first pitch for the UNLV Rebels in March 2015, and she set her dreams higher: to throw out a first pitch for the Baltimore Orioles, the Dawson family’s favorite team. Her mother wrote to the Orioles’ front office, and within months Hailey was pitching to her favorite baseball player, Manny Machado. Hailey next had the opportunity to meet fellow Las Vegas native Bryce Harper, of the Washington Nationals, and she told him her wish to throw out a pitch for his team as well. Harper came through, and in 2017, Hailey took the mound at Nats Park. A few months later, she would throw out the first pitch in Game 4 of the World Series.
Thus began her journey to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at all 30 Major League ballparks, a record no one else has achieved. “Hailey kept asking what team was next and where she was going next to throw out a first pitch,” Yong explained. As word spread, the rest of the MLB teams fell in line, many taking to Twitter to express interest in having Hailey come pitch.
Hailey’s schedule filled up, and as of press time she has pitched at 16 ballparks. On Sunday, July 1, she will cross the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park off her list. It will be Hailey’s first time visiting Philly, and she is especially excited to meet the Phanatic—who wouldn’t be? And to make things even better, her old friend Bryce Harper will be in the visitors’ dugout! Nats pitcher (and fellow Las Vegas native) Erick Fedde—who helped Hailey prepare for her big World Series pitch—will also be there on Sunday. As for a favorite Phillie, Hailey does not have one… yet. But she is looking forward to meeting with as many players as she can and having them sign her hand.
As for what’s next, Hailey’s mom explained that Hailey is set to hit 30 ballparks when the school year begins again, so the focus will be on school, as well as a book series they are currently working on. This has been such an amazing journey, and it has also helped connect and educate people about Hailey’s rare condition.
“Almost every person I’ve spoken to never heard of Poland Syndrome until Hailey. I appreciate the opportunity to raise awareness for this rare birth defect,” Yong said. “UNLV gets lots of requests to build hands for other kids. I also get emails and messages asking how to get a robotic hand. I’ve also gotten messages asking for advice on how to raise a child with a limb difference. Hailey is a bundle of confidence and that’s due to the way we raised her from the beginning.”
Photographs courtesy of Yong Dawson.