OAKLAND — From some 1,800 miles away in Kansas City, Mo., 13-year-old Nick LeGrande threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees-Athletics game Wednesday night.
Into the glove of A's reliever Ryan Cook, in Oakland. It was all made possible by a telerobotic pitching machine, and is believed to be a baseball first when it comes to ceremonial first pitches.
A first pitch from across the country — 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.
"That a boy, Nick, pretty good arm there, bud," Cook said. "Congratulations, bud, you're in the big leagues."
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 all set to be in attendance.
At the same in the Bay Area, 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.
"Unbelievable," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Hopefully it makes his day a good day. We're all for it. It should be interesting. ... I've never seen it before. I'm interested to see how it goes. It's pretty cool in that it gets to be done from somewhere else for someone who can't be here and who apparently is an A's fan."
In explaining the process, Google said that LeGrande would use an Android application allowing him to control the movements of the robot in Oakland. That robot was equipped with a camera, livestreaming a view of the ballpark to LeGrande in Kansas City.
A video about LeGrande's life was shown on the two main scoreboards before the first pitch, which was then shown live from Kansas City on the two big screens.