JUPITER — Tradition dictates rookies receive a lineup card from their first major league game. Adam Greenberg never got it. He has no mementoes in his trophy case from July 9, 2005, the day he stepped in a big league batters' box for the first and probably last time.
The one and only pitch ex-Chicago Cub Greenberg saw at Sun Life Stadium that day struck him in the back of the head. It got away from Marlins' left-hander Valerio De Los Santos, separating the best and worst moments of Greenberg's life by less than a second.
"I thought I was holding [my head] together," said Greenberg, who collapsed after the ball knocked off his helmet. "I grabbed it immediately because it felt like it split open. What scared me most was even though my gloves were dry they felt wet when I put them to my head. I thought I was going to lose my life."
Said Brad Ausmus, who is managing Greenberg and the rest of Israeli contingent at this week's World Baseball Classic qualifier at Roger Dean Stadium: "The story itself is kind of a Greek tragedy in a sense."
The vertigo and other resulting problems long since behind him, Greenberg will try to help Israel outlast Spain, France and South Africa for a spot in the 28-team World Baseball Classic next spring. Israel and South Africa play the tournament opener Wednesday night.
When Ausmus contacted Greenberg to gauge his interest, he didn't guarantee a roster spot. Greenberg did not play professionally this season to recover from shoulder surgery. He spent part of 2008 through 2011 as a member of the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League.
The hiatus wouldn't help him achieve his major league dream, but Greenberg was more concerned about missing a chance to play for Israel as a result. Ausmus and the coaching staff made the determination to add Greenberg, 31, to the roster after seeing him on the field.
"I hope this isn't the end of the story," Ausmus said. "I hope this is the second chapter of the story and somehow, somewhere he gets another opportunity…Is that a long shot? Probably so, but it would certainly be a happy ending."
Making that happy ending a reality has become the mission of Matt Liston, a baseball fan and filmmaker who initiated the "One At Bat" campaign. He produced a You Tube video chronicling Greenberg's story and started a petition to get Greenberg his first official major league at-bat. It has more than 22,000 signatures on change.org.
"That's beyond re-energized me," Greenberg said. "It's been pretty special and humbling is probably the best word to describe it."
Liston reached out to Greenberg in February and pitched his idea.
"With not playing this year I said, 'Go ahead. Knock yourself out. Have a blast,'" Greenberg said. "Did I ever think it would be this? No. It just goes to show you if you believe in something strong enough and you're willing to put in the effort, it's pretty amazing what people can accomplish."
The Cubs already have ruled out giving Greenberg an at-bat this season. More than a one-and-done scenario, Greenburg craves a spring training invite to show a team what he can do.
"I just want a chance," he said.
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