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'Cool' assignment for young girl to throw first pitch

8-year-old leukemia survivor gets ALCS Game 6 honor

KANSAS CITY -- Wearing a bright blue Kansas City Royals T-shirt and the Royals cap given to her personally by outfielder Jarrod Dyson, 8-year-old Evie Harding was raring to go, and not a bit nervous, for the task that was ahead of her Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

After all, compared to what this brave third-grader has gone through in the past year, throwing out a ceremonial first pitch in front of 40,000 fans is a piece of cake.

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"Cool, cool, cool," Harding said, jumping up and down and shaking off some of the pent-up energy she built up during the three-hour drive from Wichita, Kan.

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Harding could be described as a walking miracle. Last November, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, and once doctors determined she would need a bone marrow transplant, her father, Mike, was tested as a possible donor. They were a match.

"It was awesome, because it's not very likely," an emotional Mike Harding said, referring to being a match. "Now, she's back in school, being a normal little girl."

Evie was featured in a fundraising calendar for Braden's Hope for Childhood Cancer, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness and funds for research grants to hospitals and research institutions. She posed with Dyson, who, at the end of the photo shoot, took his hat off, signed it and gave it to Evie.

Evie wore the hat when she strode to the mound to throw the pitch -- to Dyson, who readily jumped at the chance to be a part of this special pregame ceremony.

Evie -- who was accompanied to Kauffman Stadium by her dad, her mom, Julia, her grandfather, her cousin Bailey and Uncle John -- said the coolest part about throwing out the first pitch is "going onto the field" and being able to tell her classmates about the honor the Royals bestowed on her when the American League Championship Series extended to a sixth game and returned to Kansas City, where the Royals earned a second consecutive trip to the World Series with a 4-3 Game 6 victory.

"I got to tell my whole class," Evie said. "But, we have 700 people in the school, so I couldn't tell everybody."

Living three hours away in Wichita, the Harding family doesn't get to a lot of sporting events, but there was no way they were missing this one.

"We're fans, but as busy as we are with doctor's appointments, we don't have much time to watch sports," Mike Harding said. "This is just amazing. When they asked us to come, there's no answer but 'Yes.'

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There aren't many people that get to throw out a first ball at a Major League game, much less a postseason game."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.
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