Entering his fourth season as a member of the James Madison University baseball team, senior co-captain Bradley Shaban took the time to reflect on the impact that another member of the JMU Diamond Dukes' family has had on the team. That fourth-year team member is 10-year-old Justin Brown. In 2009 the James Madison baseball team adopted Justin Brown of Haymarket, Virginia as an honorary team member through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation. Justin was diagnosed at the age of 2 years, 3 months with a Craniopharyngioma brain tumor. On February 25, 2005 he had the tumor, which was the size of a lemon, removed at the Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C. The tumor had been pushing on his right optic nerve, which has left him legally blind in his right eye. Unfortunately, Craniopharyngioma brain tumors have a very high reoccurrence rate. Justin has needed two additional 10-hour surgeries because of regrowth. During the most recent surgery, it was determined that some of the regrowth was on his carotid artery. This is a very dangerous area, so it was left untouched. Yearly MRI's have shown no new tumor growth since his last procedure. Justin is currently a member of his local Little League team and theDiamond Dukes' biggest fan. In the words of Bradley Shaban...
Justin Brown over the past four years has had a tremendous impact on not only my life but the lives of our JMU baseball family. His strength and will to fight has been an unbelievable motivator in our lives. Justin was just a child when he was approached with more hardship than anyone should ever have to face in a lifetime. Justin's fight puts everything for this team in perspective. We may have a rough day on the field, but that cannot even begin to compare to what Justin has gone through. This 10-year-old kid is one of the strongest people I have ever met. It is amazing to feel the increase in energy and love of the game everyone gets when Justin is at the ballpark. Then, to see Justin out on the field throwing before games; it is wonderful to see the way his skills have progressed over four years. No matter in everyday life or baseball, Justin is going to be a fighter and hard worker.
Justin has not only had an impact on our JMU baseball family but the entire JMU community. The past three years Justin has come to our Batter Up Barbeque. It is so great seeing that smile on Justin's face, and the excitement he has because he is ready to get this season started. We have the Justin Brown Day at the ballpark every season (April 21, 2013), a day strictly dedicated to Justin where fans are invited to run the bases after the game. Before our weekend series on a Friday at George Mason in 2011 we took the team bus to Justin's elementary school and surprised him in front of his entire grade. He was so thrilled, and the joy we were able to give him by just hanging out with him and his friends for an hour was a great feeling. That same year we were lucky enough to honor Justin again at Virginia Tech for a Friends of Jaclyn Day. Virginia Tech also adopted a boy whose name is Levi. My brother Ronnie, who played for Virginia Tech, our coaches and I were lucky enough to honor Justin, Levi, and the Friends of Jaclyn Organization on the field before the game. It was truly an honor and an experience I will never forget.
We love Justin being around the team. Any chance he has to come up to JMU or that we can go see him is a time we enjoy. He is the inspiration of this team, and he's had an impact on my life the past four years. He has given me strength and motivation on and off the field. I would like to give special thanks to the Friends of Jaclyn Organization and a past member of the JMU baseball family, David Warner, because none of this would be possible without the help of them. Justin Brown has helped this team and I more than he'll ever know. I am thankful for getting the chance to become friends with Justin, and I look forward to a great season with him.
NOTE: Join us at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park on Sunday, April 21 against Georgia State as we celebrate Justin Brown Day! Purchase tickets online here.