For Branford resident and former Guilford Indians’ baseball player Adam Greenberg, his first trip to the major leagues went as quickly as it came. On July 9, 2005, Greenberg was struck in the back of the head by a 92-mph fastball from Florida Marlins’ left-hander Valerio De Los Santos, forcing the then-Chicago Cub to fall to the ground. He was later taken to the hospital following what could have been the last at-bat of his Major League Baseball career.
Yet seven years later, after playing around the country in the minors and recently for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, Adam Greenberg is getting another chance to swing big in the majors. That’s because the Miami Marlins have received approval from Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to sign Adam, 31, to a one-day contract that gave Greenberg a plate appearance on Oct. 2, when Miami hosted the New York Mets, who were slated to start NL CY Young Award hopeful R.A. Dickey.
“When I heard about the signing, I was overjoyed with emotion,” Greenberg said. “It would have been great if it were with any team, but the fact that it was Miami, it was that much sweeter.”
After dealing with post-concussion syndrome, which included nausea and double vision, following his plate appearance in 2005, Greenberg refused to give in and he played for several minor league teams, including the independent Bridgeport Bluefish right here in Connecticut. In a game last year against the Long Island Ducks, he singled against De Los Santos, the pitcher who had hit him. In further exploration of the baseball globe, Greenberg played for Israel in the World Baseball Classic last month. In one plate appearance, he drew a walk and later scored.
“It was one special opportunity for me. With Team USA, I got to their trials, but this was really special,” Greenberg said. “Israel has one real [baseball] field in the entire country so there was so much emotion with how important the tournament was in trying to raise money to have a field to help pass the game onto the kids. [The team members] were a special and unique group of guys.”
The signing with the Marlins came after filmmaker and Cubs’ fan Matt Liston tried through petitioning via an online drive, though unsuccessfully, to get Chicago management to grant the Guilford native another shot at the plate. With the season winding down, the Marlins saw the opportunity as a win-win for Greenberg and the same club that inadvertently caused an abrupt halt to his MLB career are now helping restart it.
“Obviously, it [the 2005 hit] wasn’t their fault, but it is a great opportunity to have,” said Greenberg, an All-American outfielder with Guilford in 1998 who runs his own nutritional supplement company, LuRong Living.
In facing R.A. Dickey, “I hope the air temperature doesn’t affect his knuckleball,” he said, laughing. “He has a cool story of his own with having his own comeback. I am excited to face one of the best pitchers this year; to have that challenge, I really couldn’t have asked for much more.”
While Greenberg admitted he had doubts about his climb back to baseball, he also said he was determined to never give up. Greenberg is also steadfast in saying that this one at-bat is no sideshow; this is the real deal, one that he hopes he can turn into a second, full shot with the Great American Pastime.
“When you go through struggles, you will always have doubts. I had all of them; I just maintained in my mind that I have the ability to get back,” said Greenberg, who played in minor league systems for the Reds, Royals, and Dodgers. “I learned that if you keep working at something, magical things will happen and you have to always plan that positive things will happen. It goes beyond one at-bat; this is my real journey in life.”
Getting a 2013 spring training invitation “was one of the reasons I agreed to do this; it is exactly what I want,” he said. “This isn’t a circus show—I want to show them that I can play. I am set out to prove a spring training invite is in the cards. This is part two of my career.”
As an even greater sign of his appreciation for the second chance at the bigs, Greenberg, who lives with his wife Lindsay, has agreed to donate his one-day salary to the Marlins Foundation, which will then make a donation to the Sports Legacy Institute, an organization that advances the study and effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups.
“It has been special. Everyone is so excited; they have been there since the beginning so they are part of the journey, as well,” said Greenberg on the reaction of the Guilford community and his family. “This story is affecting a lot of people and it’s great to have that hometown support.”