WASHINGTON -- In Las Vegas before the start of Spring Training, Bryce Harper met seven-year-old Hailey Dawson, who was born with Poland Syndrome, a rare birth defect that left her without the three middle fingers on her right hand. Dawson owns a 3D-printed hand because of it, and yet she
WASHINGTON -- In Las Vegas before the start of Spring Training, Bryce Harper met seven-year-old Hailey Dawson, who was born with Poland Syndrome, a rare birth defect that left her without the three middle fingers on her right hand. Dawson owns a 3D-printed hand because of it, and yet she still asked to throw out the first pitch at a Nationals game this season.
Her wish was granted Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park, when she delivered the first pitch to Harper prior to the Nationals matchup with the Rangers, wearing a Nationals themed 3D hand she had built last week.
"It's exciting," Dawson's mother, Yong, said. "Our goal is to hopefully have her throw it in different Major League parks."
Poland Syndrome is a rare condition evident at birth, usually characterized by the absence of chest wall muscles on one side of the body and abnormally short, webbed fingers on the hand on the same side, according to the website for the National Organization for Rare Diseases. The disease reportedly occurs anywhere from one in 10,000 to one in 100,000 individuals, according to medical literature.
Dawson's hands are not webbed, but her pinky and thumb are short and she has no middle fingers. Still, she is able to mostly enjoy a normal life, and her mother joked she's constantly taking the hand off or running to put it back on when she needs it. Prior to the game, she was running around and playing with her brother and friends at Nationals Park and said she was excited to throw out the first pitch.
"There's nothing she hasn't been able to do with and without the robot hand," Yong Dawson said. "She's like other little kids, she'll pull it off and just kind of throw it around. Sometimes she takes it to school, sometimes she doesn't. She's afraid other kids will break it."
This Nationals-themed hand is Dawson's sixth, and the engineering students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas have been constantly building new ones and tweaking hands for her since 2014. During batting practice Sunday, Giovany Gonzalez and Joe Ross came out to sign her hand for her.
Dawson had been practicing for this first pitch with the help of her father, Greg, and brother, Zach, who pointed to his experience in Little League as an aid for her. And as anticipation built for Dawson to have a chance to throw to Harper, her mother was excited to have a platform to raise awareness.
"We just want to get it out there," Yong Dawson said. "A lot of people they don't know what it is. So it's kind of nice to put it out there that people start to know what it's like."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.