OAKLAND -- It was just about six weeks ago that Ryan Cook learned from a friend about a new entry in the field of technology-driven medicine, a telerobotic machine that can follow a user's movement.
When he heard that there was a plan in a fledging state to have a patient throw out a first pitch remotely using the system, Cook went to the A's to get in on the ground floor. And Wednesday night, 13-year-old Nick LeGrande will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the A's-Yankees game from 1,800 miles away.
LeGrande, suffering from a rare blood disorder known as severe aplastic anemia, will throw out the first pitch from Kansas City using a telerobotic pitching machine. It is believed to be a first for Major League Baseball.
And it fulfills a lifelong wish for LeGrande, who used to play Little League Baseball but who can no longer, because of his illness, attend live games.
"First and foremost, this is about Nick," Cook said Wednesday. "It's about making one of his dreams come true. We want to give him the experience of some live situations."
LeGrande and his family will be taken to a mini baseball stadium, specially constructed by Google at their Kansas City offices. It's both near the LeGrande home and Children's Mercy Hospital where he receives treatment.
"It's got real grass and real dirt," Cook, a bit of tech guy himself, said. "It's got stands for his family and friends and coaches to sit. And it's got a full wall projection system where they'll get the feed from Oakland."
This is believed to be the first use of this technology on this scale. Cook will be at the plate awaiting the throw from a telerobotic pitching machine placed on the pitching mound. The machine will follow LeGrande's pitching motion, allowing him to both throw the pitch remotely and see the playing field at the Coliseum.
"I guess that pitch will be coming in at terminal velocity," Cook said, laughing. "But before that, I'll talk a bit to the crowd, urging them to get tested. Somebody out there could be a possible bone marrow transplant donor for Nick or someone like him. That would be great.
"It seems like just yesterday I heard about this. I know it's been weeks. I'm glad it's finally here."