At age 31, Adam Greenberg’s dream of returning to a major-league batter’s box was fading.
Greenberg, who grew up in Guilford, was beaned in the back of his head in his one and only plate appearance with the Cubs on July 9, 2005. He played in the minor leagues and spent time with the independent Bridgeport Bluefish, hoping for another crack at the majors.
But Greenberg didn’t play for Bridgeport this year, focusing on his own nutrition company while playing for the Israeli National team. The major leagues seemed like a distant dream.
That will change Tuesday. Thanks to the work of a campaign started by documentary film-maker Matt Liston, Greenberg’s story drew national publicity and caught the attention of the Miami Marlins.
On Sunday night, Marlins president David Samson called Greenberg and offered a one-game contract. Greenberg will get one at-bat against the Mets on Tuesday.
“I broke down in tears,” Greenberg said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday.
The deal was announced Thursday morning on NBC’s Today Show. Samson, speaking by satellite from Miami, made the offer and Greenberg accepted as he sat on couch between Liston and Matt Lauer.
And even though the deal had been privately made official four days earlier, Greenberg was visibly emotional as he accepted.
“From the bottom of my heart, I’ll be ready for it,” Greenberg said on Today. “You don’t have to do this, the Marlins' organization, baseball in general, does not owe me anything. ... From the bottom of my heart, I’ll be ready for it. That I can assure you.”
Greenberg, who attended the University of North Carolina, stepped into the batter’s box for his first plate appearance with the Cubs in a game televised by ESPN on Sunday Night Baseball. The first pitch from Valerio de los Santos was a fastball that hit Greenberg in the back of the head.
He missed the rest of the 2005 season as he battled vertigo and he was unable to get back to the major leagues. He played in the minors before joining the Bluefish in 2008.
This summer, Liston started the “One At Bat” campaign to get Greenberg another plate appearance in the majors. The on-line movement grew and earned national attention.
“It was the campaign and Matt re-lighting that fire and that show of support from people wanting to see me get back going,” Greenberg said. “It forced me to get back in the [batting] cage and train and work with my hitting coach and get my mind back on the game.
"To say when I would have given up on the dream? It started to fade. Three years in independent baseball is tough, it’s a tough road. But I couldn’t be more blessed to have that campaign. It just shows the power of the human spirit. They helped me.”
Greenberg is believed to be one of only two players in baseball history to be hit by a pitch in his one and only plate appearance. The other was Fred Van Dusen of the 1955 Phillies.
As for the notion that the plate appearance is nothing more than a publicity stunt, Greenberg said he is serious and hopes to use next week’s game as a launch.
“This was a never a gimmick,” he said. “I got to the major leagues and I worked through the ranks as a little kid and all the way up. I earned that spot seven years ago. So the fact [is] this is not just my first at-bat. It’s not, ‘Oh, poor kid, let’s give him a shot.’ I think this speaks a lot greater to the fact that I never did give up.”
Greenberg will turn 32 early in spring training next year, but he now believes he can play in the majors and contribute. The plate appearance -- likely against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who is slated to start for the Mets against the Marlins Tuesday -- could lead to a spring training invitation, Greenberg hopes.
“This at-bat is just this one at-bat, but my career is not done,” Greenberg said. “I’m not going to stop from here. I’m hopeful that an opportunity will come to fruition, where a spring training opportunity will be there. So I can go out for real and re-earn that spot on the field so I can become a part of a team, I guess, the normal way.”
And even if this is a one-time appearance, Greenberg is satisfied. His journey back, he says, is about more than baseball.
“I chose to get up and get back in the box,” he said. “That’s kind of the message to everyone. No matter what’s going on in their own personal life or anything, get back up, keep going. If you do that, good things do happen. Sometimes it takes seven years, but you know what? It’s possible and this just shows it’s possible.”