MIAMI Its the ultimate second chance.
Adam Greenberg stepped to the plate at Sun Life Stadium on July 9, 2005, for his first major-league at-bat. Appearing as a pinch-hitter for the Chicago Cubs, Greenberg was hit in the head by then Marlins reliever Valerio de los Santos with the first pitch and went down in a heap.
Though my head was split open, I never truly lost consciousness, Greenberg said. I can vividly remember the ball leaving his hand to me turning to actually getting struck and knowing exactly what it felt like and being scared for my life. I grabbed my head. I kept saying, Stay alive. I just repeated that numerous times. Thatll never leave me.
Greenberg was seriously injured, and it looked as if his major-league career was over just when it started. He developed vertigo and had post-concussion symptoms, and he last played with an affiliated minor-league team in 2008.
But Greenberg, 31, is back. On Tuesday, Miami will sign the outfielder to a one-day contract and give him another at-bat against the New York Mets at Marlins Park.
A dream come true, Part Two, Greenberg said.
It looked as if there never would be a sequel after Greenberg was relegated to playing from 2008-11 for the Bridgeport (Conn.) Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League. And this season, he didnt play at all.
But filmmaker Matt Liston earlier this year began the One At Bat campaign. He produced a YouTube video telling Greenbergs story and started a petition to get Greenberg an official at-bat in the majors. The petition collected 22,000 signatures.
The quest will culminate with Greenbergs signature on a contract and his appearance Tuesday.
Lifes going to throw you curveballs or a fastball to the back of your head, you know? said Greenberg, who called his health "great'' after he had several years with head issues. I got hit by one of them, and it knocked me down. I could have stayed there. I had a choice. I couldve said Poor me. This is horrible. But I chose to get up and get back in the box.
Thats kind of the message to everyone. No matter what is going on in their own personal life, get back up. Keep going. And if you do that, good things do happen. Sometimes it takes seven years. But you know? Anything is possible, and this just shows whats possible.
Sure, its a chance for the Marlins to get some positive publicity during a disastrous season and put some fans in the seats for the next-to-last game of the season. But if anybody suggests Greenberg is unfairly taking the place of a deserving prospect with his at-bat, Greenberg makes a good point.
Its not as if Greenberg didnt earn his initial stint in the majors. As a ninth-round draft pick in 2002, good things were expected when he was brought up from the minors by the Cubs in 2005.
This was never a gimmick, said Greenberg, who will donate his one-game salary to charity. I got to the major leagues on my own merit. I worked up through the ranks as a little kid and all the way up. I earned that spot seven years ago. The fact that this is not just my first at-bat, I think thats important. Its not just, Ah, poor kid, lets just give him a shot.
The Marlins scouted Greenberg when he played for Israel at their training complex in Jupiter, Fla., at last months World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament. Greenberg was distraught when his team lost Sept. 23 in extra innings to Spain and failed to qualify for the tournament, but his mood quickly changed when the Marlins called that night.
I'm extremely proud to extend this opportunity to Adam, said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who was at the game when Greenberg was injured in 2005. He has earned this chance, as his love and passion for the game never diminished, despite his career tragically being cut short. I look forward to seeing Adam step up to the plate and realizing his comeback dream.
Now, its in the hands of Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen to determine how Greenberg will be used. Even though the game is largely meaningless, Guillen is leaning toward starting Greenberg and getting him an immediate at-bat so as to avoid possibly disrupting any late-game strategy.
I might start him in left field, lead off. If he hits a home run, he stays, Guillen said lightheartedly. If hes out, hes gone. If the game is on the line and Im going to pinch-hit for a pitcher and Im going to pinch-hit him, then I put myself in a position like I dont really care about winning the game.
Whatever happens, Greenberg doesnt want to remain a trivia question answer. He and Fred Van Dusen of the 1955 Philadelphia Phillies are the only players in baseball history to have been hit by a pitch in their only career plate appearances.
It will be at a different stadium. But seven years later, Greenberg will return to South Florida to show how he has bounced back from that harrowing July night.
The whole thing is just ironic, Greenberg said. Going back to the scene of the crime but a different location, I look at it as a new stadium, new start. For me, its just down the street, but its a new opportunity.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson