Commentary

Adam Greenberg eyes MLB comeback

Originally Published: August 26, 2010
By Matt Lindner | Special to Page 2

Adam Greenberg's major league career wasn't supposed to begin -- or end -- like this.

And he certainly wasn't supposed to be the answer to a trivia question.

His career wasn't supposed to end on the first pitch he faced as a pinch hitter for the Chicago Cubs in a midseason game. Not with the crowd sitting hushed, watching as he lay on the ground in a heap with trainers hovering over him.

"It may have been a dream come true," he said, "but my dream wasn't just to stand in the box and get hit by a pitch, it was to do whatever I could to help an organization win."

Adam Greenberg
AP Photo/Steve MitchellAs a Cubs rookie in 2005, Adam Greenberg was helped off the field after being hit by a pitch in his only major league at-bat.

Instead, Greenberg is one of only two players, along with Philadelphia's Fred Van Dusen in 1955, to be hit by a pitch in their only big league at-bat without ever taking the field.

Five years after debuting with the Cubs on July 9, 2005, at Miami's Pro Player Stadium, Greenberg is fighting for a second chance. He's bounced around the minors for five years and is playing for the Bridgeport (Conn.) Bluefish.

He does not want that scene in Miami to define his career.

After being called up from Double-A West Tennessee in 2005, then-Cubs manager Dusty Baker summoned Greenberg to hit in the ninth. Pitcher Valerio de los Santos uncorked a 92 mph heater headed straight for Greenberg's head. He had only tenths of a second to react.

He turned just enough so that the pitch caught him flush against the back of his head.

"Fortunately, I at least got out of the way enough to stay alive," he said.

The end result was a mild concussion, but the after effects lasted several years. In the immediate aftermath, he battled headaches and vertigo.

"I had a lot of work that I had to do physically and emotionally to get over that," he said. "I had developed some bad habits. I was just pulling out a little bit not because I was scared but because it was my mind taking over."

It's a moment that would change both men's careers forever.

De los Santos was one of the game's most effective left-handed relievers. He brought a 1.35 ERA into that game but fell apart afterward and now pitches for Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions in Taiwan.

"He didn't do it on purpose," Greenberg said. "It was just a freak thing. It affected his career about as much as it affected mine."

Baker, of all people, invited Greenberg to spring training with the Cincinnati Reds last season, but Greenberg was cut before the roster was set. Now he is in the independent Atlantic League, alongside former big leaguers like Antonio Alfonseca and Dan Serafini. He's also a partner in ActsLike LLC, a social networking company based on an advertising suite.

While Greenberg said he doesn't feel any physical symptoms from the beaning, his manager at Bridgeport, former big leaguer Willie Upshaw, still sees signs of it.

"In his first movement as a hitter to get ready to hit, sometimes it messes up his swing," Upshaw said. "His first movement is a little bit passive, not going toward the hitting zone."

Defensively, Upshaw said Greenberg is still sharp.

"His defense is great; his arm is strong; base running is exceptional," Upshaw said. "His eye is good … it's just finding the consistent approach to get ready to hit."

As for remaining the answer to a trivia question, Greenberg's not interested.

"I'm not over the hill," he said, "I'm only 29 and I've still got plenty of years left if I choose to."

Matthew Lindner is a freelance writer for Sports Media Exchange, a national freelance writing network.

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