Major League Baseball

Greenberg grabs chance to go out swinging

Seven years after being felled by a beamer, former Cubs player returns to finish his at-bat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 2:09am

Adam Greenberg, hit on the head by the first Major League Baseball pitch he faced back in 2005, struck out on his return to the batters' box seven years after his ill-fated first visit.

Greenberg, signed to a one-day contract by the Miami Marlins, was put in as a pinch-hitter to start the sixth inning and went down swinging on only three pitches from New York Mets ace, knuckleballer RA Dickey.

"It was a magical moment," Greenberg said. "In a sense I was honoured to strike out against him."

The Marlins would win 4-3 in 11 innings but the outcome between teams long-since ousted from the play-off hunt was less meaningful than Greenberg's inspiring comeback tale from lasting injuries after being struck on the head.

Greenberg, 31, was a pinch-hitter for the Chicago Cubs on July 9, 2005, in a game against the Marlins when the first pitch he faced, a 92-mph fastball from Valerio de los Santos, struck him just below his right ear.

"The sound, the way he went down - the first thing that went through your mind was, 'This guy is dead'," De los Santos said at the time.

Greenberg crumpled into the dirt of the batter's box. His parents, there to watch their son live his dream, watched in horror as he was taken off the field and to a nearby hospital.

"I lost control of my eyes and thought my head was split open," Greenberg said. "I never lost consciousness. I grabbed my head, and I kept saying, 'Stay alive'."

Since then, Greenberg has struggled with post-concussion syndrome, vertigo, nausea, headaches, dizziness and double vision. He could not lace his shoes without losing his balance.

Greenberg was never able to return to the major leagues. He spent years in developmental leagues and played for Israel in World Baseball Classic qualifying last month. On Tuesday, he was cheered, signed autographs and learned he would have his own trading card with a picture from his moment at the plate, a youthful dream for many players.

"The outcome from a competitive standpoint meant a lot," Greenberg said. "I wanted to get on base. I wanted to get a hit.

"The true outcome, strikeout, that didn't matter. It was a true success before I left the dugout and got to the batter's box."

Greenberg became a unique footnote in baseball history, the only player among more than 18,000 whose career ended after one pitch and without an official time at bat, until Tuesday.

"He has earned this chance as his love and passion for the game never diminished despite his career tragically being cut short," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said.

Greenberg donated his one-game salary of about US$2,600 (HK$20,100) to the Marlins charity foundation, which gave the money to the Sports Legacy Institute, a body that examines treatments and preventions for brain trauma in athletes.

"Life's going to throw you curveballs ... or a fastball to the back of your head," Greenberg said. "I got hit by one of them. It knocked me down. I could have stayed there. I had a choice.

"I chose to get up and get back in the box. That's the kind of message to everyone, that whatever is going on in their personal lives, get back up. Good things happen.

"Sometimes it takes seven years."