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Maxwell learned discipline from military father

A young Justin Maxwell piled into a car with his father at the family's home in Maryland, for what appeared to be nothing more than a leisurely drive. The suburban sprawl soon gave way to highway, which eventually turned into a winding road through the woods.

Maxwell had never been in this part of the world before, and his curiosity was getting the best of him. He badgered his father about where the two were going to spend the afternoon.

"We're driving through the woods and I was like, 'Where's he taking us?'" Maxwell said. "My dad's like, 'Oh, we're going to go to Camp David.'"

Maxwell, the Astros backup outfielder with the penchant for tape-measure home runs, wound up spending an afternoon with his father at the country retreat of the President of the United States. There was also an afternoon together at a carnival set up on the south lawn of the White House.

Such is life when your father is the man in charge of the dental care of the leader of the free world. Austin Maxwell spent more than two decades in the Navy and for five years served as the personal dentist to the President and the first family.

The elder Maxwell worked as the presidential dentist from 1997-2002. He handled dental care for President Bill Clinton and his family, as well Vice President Al Gore and his family. When Clinton left office, he remained to handle the dental care of President George W. Bush.

That made for a unique experience for Justin Maxwell, whose life has been anything but ordinary.

"It was really cool," said Justin Maxwell, who was scooped up on waivers by the Astros earlier this year. "It kind of didn't seem real during the time, but afterwards you sit back and reminisce and know it was pretty cool knowing you had those opportunities. I'm just grateful for him and all he's done. It really makes me proud."

Austin Maxwell retired from the Navy in 2002, at the rank of captain. His wife, Kathy Maxwell, also spent 20 years in the Navy and retired as a commander. Austin Maxwell went into private practice in Virginia for four years when his military career was over, before leaving to work at the Pentagon providing dental care for members of the military.

"It's still real good to be with the military and provide services for the men and women who are serving the country," Austin said. "I still feel good about being with the military. I know that for a lot of military members, they didn't get good dental care growing up, and now we can give them some of the best care they can receive."

The Maxwell's dedication to service carried over to their kids. Their daughter, Jemea, is a nurse at Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda. Justin graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in animal sciences, but his athleticism got in the way.

"Football was not in the cards," Austin Maxwell said. "I didn't feel comfortable with him on the field with the idea of one injury could be devastating."

The elder Maxwell, who played baseball at Kutztown State, recognized his son had talent in baseball and basketball. He encouraged him to play up in age, where he held his own on the baseball diamond against older kids. The encouragement his dad provided did wonders for Maxwell.

"He can do just about anything he puts his mind to.That's how we raised our kids, to always have options and be thinking about the future and what you want to do and don't pigeon-hole yourself into doing one particular thing."
-- Austin Maxwell
on Justin Maxwell

"He was really instrumental in my career," he said. "He took me to all my ballgames as I got older and he taught me about hitting. I'm really grateful for him."

Justin even played baseball while the family was stationed for four years in Japan, an experience which made a tight-knit Maxwell family even closer.

"We had a nice opportunity for the kids to grow up and see another culture," Austin Maxwell said. "I think it was probably the best thing for us all as a family because when you're living someplace else and even though you're still surrounded by military families from other states, you're still in a foreign land and wind up relying on each other. It helps you keep pretty close-knit as a family."

Justin Maxwell played baseball at the University of Maryland and was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 10th round in 2004, but opted to stay in school. The Washington Nationals took him in the fourth round in 2005 and he made his Major League debut two years later.

All the while, Maxwell had an interested party at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"You have a lot of opportunity doing dentistry to have interpersonal conversations with folks, and I just mentioned [to Bush] that Justin played baseball at the University of Maryland," Maxwell said. "When he heard he got drafted, he said congratulations and would ask how he's doing. It was really nice to know he was interested in my kid. I thought that was fantastic."

Justin Maxwell currently has no political aspirations of his own, though his father has no doubt he'd be successful if he did enter the political field. Maxwell has been successful in just about everything he's done, including his time with the Astros.

The sky's the limit for Justin, and a proud father feels privileged to be along for the ride.

"He can do just about anything he puts his mind to," Austin Maxwell said. "That's how we raised our kids, to always have options and be thinking about the future and what you want to do and don't pigeon-hole yourself into doing one particular thing.

"In college, he talked about playing baseball, but what about the other things? He majored in veterinary medicine at the University of Maryland and got his degree. He was prepared one way or the other to do whatever he needed to do for his future. We're proud of him and his sister."

Houston Astros, Justin Maxwell