‘Miracle child’ conquers life’s curveballs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Life, like baseball, comes with its share of ups, downs and curveballs. So far, 10-year-old Justin Levins has knocked each of his challenges out of the ball park.

A soon-to-be fifth grader at Morgan Academy, Levins had

already beaten the odds by just being alive. But when he suited up and played baseball for King Building Materials this season, Levins became a shining example of determination and perseverance.

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“When his teammates see him hustle, they want to hustle a little more,” said Justin’s coach, Troy Anderson.

For most 10-year-olds, playing baseball is not anything out of the ordinary, but Levins is anything but an ordinary boy.

Levins developed a case of pneumonia when he was seven months old. The illness sent the youngster into a septic shock in which the blood supply to the extremities is cut off. Doctors were forced to amputate both of Justin’s feet at the ankles. They also amputated four fingers on his right hand, leaving his thumb and a stub of an index finger.

“The doctors never determined his condition,” said Tony Levins, Justin’s father. “We put him in the hospital and his condition got worse.”

So much worse, in fact, that doctors gave the youngster a five percent chance of surviving.

“We had a friend in the hospital room praying with us,” Tony Levins said. “We didn’t think he was going to make it.”

But little Justin battled the illness and won, though he now has a pair of prosthetic feet.

The disability, however, has done little to slow him down. In nearly every way, he is just an ordinary youngster.

Besides baseball, Justin is an avid golfer, and can be found pedaling his bike through the neighborhood on any given day.

“I just want to have fun,” Justin said. “I’m just the same as any other kid.

“I wanted to play baseball,” Justin added, “because I thought it would be fun. I thought I could hit the ball pretty good.”

And he can, too.

He proved it, collecting two hits in his team’s 9-3 win over Selma Trophy in the National League championship Saturday.

His baseball prowess may just be developing, but Justin has always had the ability to touch people’s hearts.

“When I go to work on the evening shift, I think of him and it gives me the inspiration I need to keep me going,” said Tony, a process operator at International Paper. “He is nothing short of a miracle child.”

“When I first met him, I didn’t think he could do anything,” said Julie Mott, babysitter for Justin and his brother Cameron and sister Courtney. “Now Justin’s really hyper. He rides his bike, jumps on the trampoline and rollerblades. He’s been an inspiration to me. He just doesn’t give up at all.”

That attitude recently touched Mott’s life in a real way. The 19-year-old decided to enroll at the University of Auburn at Montgomery rather than taking off a year after returning from school in Idaho.

“I thought about taking a break,” she said, “but now I’m going back.

I’m going to study Child Development or become a pediatric nurse. Seeing him has made me want to help kids.”

As for Justin’s athletic future, his father said he is considering letting his son play organized football this fall.

“I’m trying to get him involved in something other than golf,” Tony Levins said. “I want him to meet new friends and help him develop his self-esteem.

“If I got him into baseball next year,” Levins added, “Justin would love it.”

As for Anderson, having Justin on his team in the 11-12-year-olds league would be a pleasure.

“Justin would play every out if I let him,” Anderson said. “If he wanted to play for me next season, he would have a spot on my team.”