The A's gave fan Nick LeGrande a fantastic 14th birthday present on Wednesday. They let him throw out the first pitch before their game against the Yankees in Oakland. However, because LeGrande lives in Kansas City and has a compromised immune system due to acute aplastic anemia, they had to get creative to make it happen. Enter Google, which saw in LeGrande an opportunity to promote its new gigabit-speed fiber broadband network, Google Fiber, for which Kansas City agreed to become the test city.
By essentially hot-gluing a webcam to a pitching machine, Google made it possible for LeGrande to have a virtual first-pitch experience at their studios in Kansas City and for the pitch he threw there to trigger an actual pitch from the Coliseum mound in Oakland. That pitch was caught by A's reliever Ryan Cook, who will hand-deliver the ball, signed by the A's, to LeGrande when the A's travel to Kansas City to play the Royals in early July. Here's the pitch:
Cook, as it turns out, was the key link in the chain that made LeGrande's first pitch happen. As Cooke told MLB.com, "my girlfriend's older sister works for an advertising company that works for Google. They brought it to her attention and she figured to bring it to my attention. . . . once it came to me, I started at the bottom of the ladder here at the clubhouse and took it to the Athletics." Clearly, LeGrande's first pitch was conceived as a publicity stunt, not as a charitable act, but that doesn't make the actions of Cook or the A's any less genuine. Indeed, there's a nice irony in the fact that the pitch was far more effective as wish-fulfillment for LeGrande than as a demonstration of Google's technology. After all, who's to say one of the two guys in blue shirts behind the mound didn't trigger the actual pitch, and their robot bounced the throw. Look at LeGrande's pitching form. Clearly he threw a strike!