May 12, 2003
Whether it's beating out a throw to first base or running down a fly ball Lee County senior Zach Watkins is always going full speed. In fact Watkins' speed is a point of pride for the Trojans lead off man. "Yeah, that's my specialty I guess. I try to make it (my specialty). I take pride in stealing bases and all that kind of stuff," Watkins said.
But when Zach was five years old that blazing speed began to slowly deteriorate. "Putting on my shoes started to be a problem, when I pushed my heel into my shoe I could feel it in my hip. And getting into the back seat of the car when I would lift my leg up (it would hurt). I couldn't really lift it straight up, I'd have to swing it around really."
Zach's mother, Cyndi Collins, remembers vividly when her son started complaining about discomfort in his legs. "He just came in the house and said, 'Mom, I can't run.' And I asked him, 'What do you mean you can't run?' And he said, 'Come watch me.' And he had his buddies out lined up like he always did racing everyone in the neighborhood and lined up with them and he took two steps and he came to a dead stop and said, 'I can't run.'" Collins said.
After numerous trips to the doctor's office Zach was diagnosed with Perthes disease, a hip disorder found in young children. "I remember the doctor coming in and telling my mom what it was, and I really had no clue what he was talking about but I remember her crying, I mean just balling right there in front of me. That scared me to death."
He eventually wound up in a Shriner's Hospital in Tampa Florida. In a matter of months he went from being placed in traction, to wearing special braces for his legs. "He wore those braces 23 out of 24 hours a day for almost two years," Collins added.
Now thirteen years later, Watkins disease is a distant memory, he's made a full recovery and is once again the fastest kid in the neighborhood or in Lee County's case the lineup. "I don't know about the fastest in the neighborhood now because a few guys got me but I think I'm the fastest out here.".
And he's showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
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