BALTIMORE -- All eyes were on 5-year-old Hailey Dawson before the Orioles-Athletics game Monday as Dawson -- using an Orioles-themed robotic hand -- threw the ceremonial first pitch to her favorite player, All-Star Manny Machado, several feet in front of home plate.
Dawson, who was born with a rare congenital disease called Poland syndrome, wears the Flexy-Hand 2, which is a 3D-printed prosthetic device created by the UNLV engineering department. The hand helps her grip and hold things since her right pectoral muscle is flat and her hand is formed in a way that would otherwise make that impossible.
"Ultimately, the goal is not just to have her dream come true, but to expose the hand and that people can get this hand. And it's available to anybody," said Hailey's mom, Yong. "It's so easy, so cheap -- especially for someone who is a kid, their arms are going, their hands are going. … I just wanted it to be out there, that, 'Hey, you can get this.'"
An alternative to prosthetics that can costs thousands of dollars, when the Dawsons looked into the Flexy-Hand 2, they asked if it could be orange. When that was OK'ed, the lifelong Orioles fans -- dad, Greg is from Hagerstown, Md. -- added the bird, which was signed by Machado on Monday.
The idea to come to Camden Yards started after Dawson threw out the first pitch at a UNLV game.
"She said, 'I wish I could throw the ball out for the big Orioles,'" Yong said. "Her brother plays Little League and has always been the Orioles, so she considers him the 'small Orioles.' So I thought about it and I thought it's kind of a tall order, but what the heck? I'll try. I picked eight different names from the front office and I sent a two-page letter with a bunch of photos and that was it. They called me back and said, 'Yeah.'"
One of those calls came from executive vice president John Angelos, who took a particular interest in Hailey's hand.
"In my head I was thinking, 'Is this for real?'" Yong said of the phone call. "I can't believe this is going on."