Nurse Amanda Lester got a phone call last week from Hartford HealthCare East Region President Donna Handley with what Handley called a “kooky ask.”
“She said the Sea Unicorns wanted to honor a healthcare worker and did I want to go to the game,” said Lester, regional infection control coordinator for Hartford HealthCare’s East Region. “It wasn’t until later that I found out I would be throwing out the first pitch.”
The Norwich Sea Unicorns are one of eight teams in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, and the newest team in residence at Dodd Stadium in Norwich.
So Monday night, Lester headed to the infield to throw a baseball to mark the new team’s home opener. She was joined by Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom, who also threw a pitch. (For the record, Amanda stood where a softball pitcher would stand, and hers made it over the plate. Nystrom, who stood on the mound, not so much.)
She was chosen, Handley said, because “Amanda Lester was a pillar of strength for her patients and colleagues in her position as Infection Prevention Coordinator for Backus and Windham hospitals. Throughout the pandemic, Amanda helped implement the latest infection prevention practices at the hospitals, and taught frontline staff how to safely care for COVID positive patients. She was a calming influence during uncertain times and was the first person her colleagues turned to for guidance.”
“It was cool,” said Lester, who has been in the infection prevention job since 2015. “It was really nice to be asked, especially since we have the relationship with Dodd Stadium, which is where we did our COVID testing for much of the pandemic.”
In her job as an infection preventionist, “staff used to think of us as the hand hygiene police,” Lester said. During COVID, “it was our job to make sure the staff and the patients were safe. It was really challenging to keep up with all the changes that kept coming out with PPE and other protocols.”
Her husband Kevin, 9-year-old son Kieran and daughter Nora, 7, joined her at the stadium to watch.
“My kids didn’t want me to embarrass them,” she said. “I think I did OK.”