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Major-leaguer turned dental student analyzes World Series

October 24, 2019

By Jennifer Garvin

Justin Maxwell on set
Double duty: Former major leaguer and dental student Justin Maxwell prepares for a World Series pregame show.
Washington — Ask any baseball fan and they’ll tell you: October is the best month of year.

That’s particularly true this season for fans of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros. The two teams are currently battling in the World Series.

Fans of the former tuning into Fox-5 DC (WTTG-TV) might see a familiar face smiling back at them: Former Nationals outfielder Justin Maxwell, who is a part of the station’s broadcast team.

What they might not know is when he’s not making predictions about the game, he’s thinking about dentistry.

That’s because the once major-leaguer is now a second-year dental student at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.

A native of Olney, Maryland, Mr. Maxwell, 35, has always enjoyed the idea of broadcasting. Earlier this fall, he spent four days working games as a studio analyst for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, known as MASN, which broadcasts the Nationals during the regular season. When WTTG-5 started putting together its own World Series team, they reached out to him to see if he’d be interested. He was.

“They told me they saw some of the work I did with MASN and wanted to know my availability for the World Series,” he said. “They were planning in advance in case they had beaten the Cardinals in the fourth game of the NLCS. It worked out perfectly.”

If you look for them, the parallels between dentistry and baseball aren’t too hard to find.

Both take tremendous hand-eye coordination.

Both rely on repetition.

And the discipline. Oh, the discipline. Professional baseball players average eight to 12 hours at the ballpark. Every day for at least eight months out of the year.

Justin Maxwell dental student
Lab time: Justin Maxwell works on his hand skills during a lab at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.
The typical dental student can relate.

“Just like when I had to work on my baseball skills, whether it was defensively or offensively swinging the bat, repetition is the key. Being able to work on my hand skills and the hand piece and getting comfortable doing the different procedures,” he said. “The more I do it, the more comfortable I feel doing it."

Mr. Maxwell’s ties to this World Series are everywhere. After being drafted by the Nationals in 2005, he made his major league debut in 2007. Former teammates from the organization include current players Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Taylor. But he also spent parts of the 2012 and 2013 seasons as an Astro where he shared the line-up with Jose Altuve and George Springer.

So who’s he rooting for in the World Series?

“I’m broadcasting for the Nationals, so I’m gonna say Nats,” he said.

When asked if he’d consider leaving dental school to pursue broadcasting full time, he said, “Absolutely not. No way!"

“There's no way that I would want to put my dentistry stuff on hold because as I found with baseball, if you don't use it, you lose it,” he continued. “If I don't have my hand piece in my hand and I'm not working on learning some of the different specialties, then it's probably going to pass me by. But the way the program is set up at Maryland, [the instructors] keep us engaged and doing new things. I like having that experience and I need that experience as well.”

During the World Series, Mr. Maxwell has done spots on the 5:30 p.m. newscasts and also worked WTTG's half-hour pregame show. For the first two games in Houston, he worked out of the station’s headquarters in Washington. For games 3-5, he’ll be broadcasting live from Nationals Park.

After playing professional baseball for more than 10 years, he hung up his spikes in 2016. In a career that spanned four major league teams and included playing overseas in Busan, South Korea, his next goal focused on becoming a dentist. It was a natural career choice for the son of two dentists.

“I gave it a lot of thought after I was done playing,” he said. “I always enjoyed communicating with people and making new relationships, so I thought that dentistry was going to provide me that opportunity.”

His parents, now retired, were both Navy dentists. His mother, Kathy, was a pediatric dentist and his dad, Austin, a general dentist. Dr. Austin Maxwell later served as a White House dentist under two presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

“I like to say that they're both my hired tutors. It's nice to have them there if I ever have any questions or to see if there’s a different or easier way of doing something,” Mr. Maxwell said. “Just bouncing ideas off of them. Sometimes if they'll say, ‘No, that's the way you've got to do it. You've just kind of got to grind it out.’ It’s just nice to have them there in my back corner too.”

When it came to applying to dental school, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry was his first choice. Not only did he do his undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland College Park, it was also within driving distance of his home in Frederick, where he lives with his wife, Loren, and their three children.

“Honestly my wife, she's the key to it all,” he said. “She works and she has everything lined up for us in terms of meals, practice schedules. She also has my class schedule on her phone so she knows what's going on in my life and then she's able to say, 'Hey, you have to be here or there for the kids and make sure you're on time for this.' Also, the faculty and staff at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, they've been very, very accommodating. Not only for me, but for all the other students who have families as well.”

Editor's note: The World Series resumes Friday, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m., nationally, on Fox. Readers living in the Washington viewing area can catch Maxwell during Fox-5's 5:30 p.m. newscasts and 6:30 p.m. pregame shows Oct. 25-27.