05:15 AM

Children's Mercy patient to throw out first-ever virtual pitch from 1,800 miles away

Nick LeGrande, a 13-year-old baseball fan battling an extremely rare blood disorder, will live out his big-league dreams by throwing out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game - without leaving his hometown of Kansas City.

Surrounded by his family, friends, Little League teammates and Children's Mercy Hospital doctors and staff, Nick will deliver a pitch at Kansas City's Google Fiber Space that triggers a telerobotic arm halfway across the country to throw the ceremonial first pitch at Wednesday's Oakland A's-New York Yankees game.

"Nick has a Superman complex. I say that because I don't know many adults who could go through what he has this year," says his father, Mike LeGrande. "His doctors at Children's Mercy are supportive through every aspect of his care, of course, but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this might be the best treatment yet."

The youngest member of a family whose baseball roots trace back to Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville, Nick's own baseball career was put on hold when he was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare disease that damages the bone marrow and blood stem cells. Nick, who his father describes as always being a "little nuclear reactor" of energy, now requires weekly infusions to counter the inability of his stem cells to generate mature blood cells.

"Nick has been through so much since his diagnosis in January," said Jaszianne Tolbert, MD, pediatric hematologist at Children's Mercy, "But he has such an amazing spirit and attitude about the whole thing. This experience couldn't happen to a more deserving young man and a bigger baseball fan."

Not far from the hospital, Nick will take the mound at the Google Fiber Space's custom-built infield, complete with real dirt and real grass, and his historic pitch will be seen on the big screen at O.co Coliseum. Nearly 40,000 fans will cheer on the feat before the A's take on the Yankees, one of Nick's favorite teams along with his hometown Kansas City Royals.

"After the Fourth of July, we're having another bone marrow test to look for improvement," Mike said, "and we're hoping for a home run. But we'd be so thankful for a base hit."

The family hopes Nick's story will inspire others to consider donating blood or bone marrow, knowing that every donor could help save the life of someone they love - or have never met.

Visit www.childrensmercy.org/nicksfirstpitch, www.facebook.com/childrensmercy and g.co/nicksfirstpitch  to read Nick's story, learn how to help and see behind-the-scenes videos. Everyone is encouraged to cheer for Nick and show their support on Twitter by using the #NicksFirstPitch hashtag leading up to and throughout the first pitch. Many of these messages will be retweeted through @ChildrensMercy or shown at O.co Coliseum and the Google Fiber Space.


About Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics

Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, located in Kansas City, Mo., is one of the nation's top pediatric medical centers. The 354-bed hospital provides care for children from birth through the age of 21, and has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of "America's Best Children's Hospitals." For the third time in a row, Children's Mercy has achieved Magnet nursing designation, awarded to fewer than seven percent of all hospitals nationally, for excellence in quality care. Its faculty of 600 pediatricians and researchers across more than 40 subspecialties are actively involved in clinical care, pediatric research, and educating the next generation of pediatric subspecialists. For more information about Children's Mercy and its research, visit childrensmercy.org or download our mobile phone app CMH4YOU for all phone types. For breaking news and videos, follow us on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.