For 16-year-old Queens native and die-hard Mets fan James Lozano, being born without legs has never been a roadblock to accomplishing his dreams.
And, recently, one of Lozano’s lifelong dreams of running the bases and taking batting practice at Citi Field was fulfilled thanks to the Mets’ All-Star third baseman David Wright and the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in Manhattan.
A rare birth defect that affects only about 1,000 U.S. children each year caused Lozano, who was born at Elmhurst Hospital, to undergo a double foot amputation when he was only eight months old.
But, the upbeat, affable Lozano has never seen his birth defect as a limitation.
“I take the bus and the train to school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., five days week,” said Lozano, who is a freshman at Middle College High School at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
An accomplished handball player who learned to play on the courts in Jackson Heights, Lozano’s love of sports is longstanding – particularly when it comes to the Mets, a team he has rooted for since about age two.
“I’m a huge Mets fan, and the tour of Citi Field was like a dream come true,” said Lozano, who not only toured the field but ran the bases and got a personal visit from one of his favorite players, David Wright.
In addition to receiving an autographed Mets jersey, bat and batting gloves, Wright told Lozano to “never quit.” The longtime Mets third baseman said he found Lozano’s story inspiring.
Wright also praised Lozano’s “tenacity,” energy and desire to accomplish things.
“He has a super hero mentality,” Wright said.
Indeed, Lozano strives to reach out to others who may need words of encouragement by regularly working with HSS to talk with people who need or have had amputations.
Dr. Daniel Green, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at HSS who has monitored Lozano’s progress for the past 15 years, said that Lozano has a fantastic attitude.
Green said that HSS was fortunate to have patient like Lozano, who will come in and talk with families and individuals about what it will be like to have an amputation and also what it will be like to have and use artificial legs.
For Lozano’s part, he said that he has never felt his prosthetics got in the way of doing anything. Lozano was recently awarded two medals from his school—one for baseball and one for varsity wrestling. The athletic teen has also completed a few triathlons.
“He has told me in the past that he always looks forward and never looks back,” Green said.
Moreover, Green called Lozano “One of the most spiritual young men I have met. It’s an honor to watch him grow up through the years.”
In fact, even while at Citi Field back in April, Lozano spoke to David Diaz, a field maintenance worker whose son had recently lost both his legs in a car accident.
An emotional Diaz hugged Lozano and told him he respected him for his spirit and his words of encouragement – telling Diaz’s son to “keep pushing forward and never look back.”
Diaz said it was very uplifting to him to see Lozano smiling, full of life and hopeful about the future.
He also called Lozano a “hero” for doing what he does.
Lozano’s mother, Gloria, said her son isn’t shy and has a “noble” heart.
Underscoring his belief in “not living life with limitations,” Lozano plans on pursuing work in criminal justice.
“I’m also involved in the NYPD’s explorers program,” Lozano said, expressing his desire to eventually work in law enforcement.
Asked about what he likes best about living in Queens, Lozano, whose parents hail from Colombia, said he likes the diversity in the borough as well as the various types of cuisine.
“I love Mexican food but nothing too spicy,” he explained.
And, Lozano, who has all but mastered the art of running with his prosthetics, said he’ll be doing a race on June 29th out in Jericho, NY.
“You always have to keep looking forward, never back.”
By Alan Krawitz