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Inspiring 8-year-old tosses first pitch for Tribe

Girl with robotic hand, Hailey Dawson, takes part in pregame festivities in Cleveland
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- It's not every day you're selected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. But for 8-year-old Hailey Dawson, it has become a regular occurrence.

Dawson was selected to throw out the first pitch at Progressive Field on Saturday prior to the Astros-Indians game at 7:15 p.m. ET. It's the eighth time Hailey, a Henderson, Nev., native, has been selected to throw out the first pitch for a Major League team; she also has done so at the home fields of the Orioles, Nationals, Padres, Giants, Cubs, Rangers and Astros (during the 2017 World Series).

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CLEVELAND -- It's not every day you're selected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. But for 8-year-old Hailey Dawson, it has become a regular occurrence.

Dawson was selected to throw out the first pitch at Progressive Field on Saturday prior to the Astros-Indians game at 7:15 p.m. ET. It's the eighth time Hailey, a Henderson, Nev., native, has been selected to throw out the first pitch for a Major League team; she also has done so at the home fields of the Orioles, Nationals, Padres, Giants, Cubs, Rangers and Astros (during the 2017 World Series).

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"This is super cool," Hailey said, bashfully, while watching batting practice before the game.

With the help of her family -- mom Yong, dad Greg and brother Zach -- Hailey hopes to throw out the first pitch at every Major League stadium.

"Initially, she threw out the first pitch for the Orioles when she was 5," Yong Dawson said. "And then she did the Nationals last year. After the Nationals, she kept asking, 'What's next? Where are we going next?' So that's when we started thinking about what we could do next. We thought, 'How cool would it be if we could get her to all 30 ballparks?'"

Hailey was born without a right pectoral muscle due to a condition called Poland syndrome, resulting in the loss of her three middle fingers and an underdeveloped thumb and pinky finger.

But her condition has not held her back. Hailey, an avid baseball fan, played tee ball last year and sports a robotic hand, built by the College of Engineering at UNLV. She received her first prosthetic in October 2015 and has since been gifted a team-themed robotic hand for every stadium she has visited.

"It's made from a 3-D printer, and it's manual-based, so it's not electric," said Yong. "She moves her finger, and based on wrist movement, it will adjust -- so it closes and opens."

"Her arm keeps growing, her hand will keep going, but the shape will always be the same. So once she stops growing, we've figured by then we'll have one for her that's electronic."

The most important thing, her mother noted, is that Major League teams are giving Hailey the opportunity to live out her dream.

"For them to be able to reach out like that and invite her to throw out these first pitches is pretty amazing," Yong said. "They're professional sports teams. They don't have to do this. For them to be able to do this for my daughter, and to talk about Poland Syndrome, to get to talk about her hand and to bring all this awareness to both is amazing. They're helping out a little girl."

Hailey noted throwing out the first pitch doesn't make her nervous, but rather excited. Her favorite part of the game, however, is watching home runs. Those who have seen her throw out the first pitch say she's not afraid to throw it either.

"She has a mean left arm, too," Yong said, jokingly.

Casey Harrison is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter @Casey_Harrison1.

Cleveland Indians