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Girl With Custom, 3D-Printed Hand to Throw Out Pitches at MLB Ballparks

Thanks to an innovative 3D-printed hand, 7-year-old Hailey Dawson is taking the mound at major league stadiums across the country.

Photo by Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services

Seven-year-old Hailey Dawson loves baseball. But she was born with a deformity in her dominant hand, caused by the rare Poland Syndrome. Unfazed, Hailey has resolved to throw the first pitch at every MLB stadium. And she’s doing so with the help of a bespoke 3D-printed prosthetic (designed by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas) that responds to her subtle wrist movements. 

Hailey has already fulfilled her dream with the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals. Now, thanks to a strong Twitter campaign, Hailey has standing offers from The Mets, The Red Sox, and several other major league teams.

When living in Las Vegas, Hailey’s mother sent an email to the University of Nevada, explaining her daughter’s predicament. UNLV’s engineers were intrigued by the possibility of designing and printing a custom 3D-printed hand for Hailey. “How could you say no to this?” said Brendan O’Toole, chair of mechanical engineering in a 2014 statement. “The project combines mechanics, robotics, and we get the added bonus of helping someone.”

hailey dawson baseball pitch

Hailey sat in O’Toole’s lab as students and scientists carefully measured her hand, used a laser scanner to obtain a 3D image of her arms, and created a plastic mold of her tiny fingers (the researchers sang songs from The LEGO Movie to keep her calm while the mold formed. They then sent the plans, custom molded to fit Hailey’s hand, off to UNLV’s 3D printer. Creating the hand cost less than $2,000 (UNLV covered the expense). A traditional prosthetic would have cost $20,000, which is not feasible for a growing girl who will need regular replacement prostheses.

Since then, Hailey has learned to use her 3D-printed robotic hand to grip just about anything, not to mention swing a bat and throw a killer fastball. She’s a champion—and now she’s coming to a baseball field near you.