Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nick’s first pitch

Ed. Note: You can help Nick and others with life-threatening illnesses with one quick cheek swab. Visit bethematch.org to become a donor.

Thirteen-year-old Kansas City-area resident Nick LeGrande has been a baseball fan since he can remember. He loves to watch baseball, talk about baseball, and of course, play baseball. But last year, Nick was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a rare blood disease that has kept him off the field indefinitely.

When the Oakland A’s, a Major League Baseball team, heard about Nick’s situation earlier this year, they asked him to throw out the first pitch at tonight’s game. Because of his illness, Nick can’t hop on a plane for the 1,800 mile journey from Missouri to the A’s stadium in California. But luckily, there’s another way for Nick to throw out tonight’s ceremonial pitch — using the Internet.

When we think of the power of the Internet and the importance of broadband connectivity to our communities, it’s easy to just think of sending email or watching videos. But high-bandwidth applications on the web have made a host of other amazing things possible — for example, the field of telerobotics, or the ability to control robots over long distances using the web. That’s how tonight, using a specially-designed, web-connected pitching robot, Nick LeGrande will throw the first-ever telerobotic pitch in MLB history.

At 8:53 PM Central time, Nick will join us at the Google Fiber Space in Kansas City, which we’ve transformed into a mini baseball stadium (real grass, dirt and bleachers) for the occasion. Using an Android app, Nick will be able to control the movements of a robot that will sit on the pitcher’s mound in Oakland. That robot will be equipped with a camera, which will livestream a first-hand view of what the stadium looks like to Nick. Then, joined by his family, friends, teammates and doctors from Children’s Mercy Hospital, Nick will toss out the game’s first pitch — in Kansas City, and in Oakland.

We're honored to share this moment with Nick, and you can too — visit our website to get a play-by-play of tonight's pitch and send him well-wishes via social media. He'll see your messages on the big screen at the Fiber Space as he throws out the first pitch. You can also visit Children's Mercy Hospital's website to learn more about Nick and severe aplastic anemia.

This story is part of a series called “Why Speed Matters,” which showcases examples of what’s possible with fast Internet -- and why it matters.