Baseball is a game steeped in tradition, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are embracing technology in the coolest way possible: they’ve invited a 7-year-old girl with a 3D printed hand to throw out the first pitch next year.
Hailey Dawson, born without the three middle fingers on her right hand because of a rare birth defect, wears a special 3D-printed robotic hand courtesy of the students and teachers at the engineering program at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
— Cut4 (@Cut4) September 7, 2017
At seven years old, Hailey has more MLB experience than 99% of baseball fans. The Baltimore Orioles had her throw out the first pitch in 2015.
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 18, 2015
And the Washington Nationals had her throw out the first pitch in June of this year.
Hailey Dawson, a 7-year-old pitching prospect and your new personal hero, threw out yesterday's 1st pitch with her 3D-printed robotic hand! pic.twitter.com/wCL9xHRt1O
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 12, 2017
Already a veteran of two Major League clubs and with a third in the Pittsburg Pirates on the books, Hailey wants to throw out the first pitch for every single big league team — a goal she’s well on her way to accomplishing.
This is a PR slam dunk for every front office in MLB. For a league struggling to maintain relevancy among young people — the average MLB viewer is 57 years old — any publicity that’s going to resonate with people born after 1960 is a good thing. A cute little girl with a robot hand throwing a baseball is something everyone can root for.
Think of all the other kids out there with disabilities who can look at Hailey and say, “If she can do it, I can do it.”
Major League Baseball would be wise to embrace not only Hailey, but others like her. Give people something to cheer for. For a lot of sports fans, baseball is a thing that happens during the NFL and NBA off-seasons. Unless you’re a diehard fan, or your team is gonna make noise in the playoffs, baseball becomes ancillary as soon as football starts.
The NFL owns Sundays. Church used to own Sundays, now it’s football. College football is a Saturday thing, but with every major conference and some schools having their own premium cable networks (shoutout Texas), it’s a Friday thing now, too. Add in NFL’s Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, and you’ve got nationally televised football five nights a week; more than enough to satiate your average sports fan.
Baseball isn’t in acute danger; various TV deals, both team-specific and league-wide, mean that the money’s there for the foreseeable future. MLB has taken baby steps towards improving the product they put out on the field — introducing instant replay, eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk — but excitement is still (acutely) lacking at times.
Hailey Dawson is inspiration personified, but it’s going to take more than a 7-year-old girl with a robotic hand for MLB to win the battle for hearts and minds.