"I felt like my head exploded." Adam Greenberg
will never forget his first Major League at-bat, his only Major League at-bat. "I lost control of my eyes and thought my head was split open," he said yesterday as he thought back to a moment that should have been one of the best in his life. "I kept saying 'stay alive,' and just repeated that."
On July 9, 2005, Greenberg stepped to the plate as a member of the Chicago Cubs. He was pinch-hitting in the ninth inning and facing a big league pitcher in a big league game for the first time ever. The Cubs were facing the Marlins and on the hill was Valerio De Los Santos
. Santos' first pitch, a 92 mph fastball, rode up and in. Greenberg had little time to react, and the pitch struck him in the side of the head, just below his right ear. Greenberg went down hard and clutched his head immediately. He thought he was going to die.
Fortunately, Greenberg recovered - at least to the point where he could play baseball again. He battled vision problems and balance issues all while trying to carve out a career in baseball. After that pitch, in the offseason, Greenberg was released by the Cubs. He re-signed with them in January of 2006, but he was cut again in June. Greenberg has bounced around in the minor league systems of the Cubs, the Dodgers, the Royals, and the Angels now for the past seven years.
He has played over 600 minor league games since the incident that could have ended his life and his baseball career. He's also been hit by pitches 49 times since that summer game in 2005, including a career-high 13 times last season with the Bridgeport Bluefish. None of those HBP have been quite as traumatic or life-shaping as the pitch from Santos.
Greenberg did not play professional baseball this season, but he is getting a shot to appear in a Major League game one more time. It may be his only shot, but the Marlins are making sure he gets a second chance. One pitch should never be all a player sees in the Majors, and Miami will ensure this. Yesterday, the Marlins announced on the Today Show that they would sign Greenberg to a one-day contract and allow him to play in Tuesday's matchup against the New York Mets.
Many people have thought this decision should have been made by the Cubs. He was a member of the Cubs organization when the injury happened, and they were the team to let him go not once, but twice. However, Chicago did not end (at least it seemed like the end until yesterday) Greenberg's career. The Marlins did. A pitch from Valerio De Los Santos did. It is fitting for the Marlins to give Greenberg this chance. It means more coming from that organization than it would have coming from the Cubs.
The Cubs were actually approached with the idea, and they rejected it according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune
. The Cubs did not want to bring him back for one game as a publicity stunt, and Greenberg understood that. The Marlins claim the move is not a stunt, but no matter the reasoning behind it, the story is a good one. The move by the Marlins actually provides this story a better ending than had Greenberg stepped to the plate at Wrigley Field again. Redemption and recovery at the hands of the team that caused him such trauma.
Greenberg will likely never have a career in the Majors, but he will at least get one more shot thanks to the Miami Marlins.