Top 100 Baseball Blog

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Adam Greenberg: MLB's One At-Bat Inspiration

Only a tiny fraction of baseball players are fortunate enough to have a professional career. Even fewer earn the opportunity to make it to the major leagues and achieve the distinction of playing at the game’s highest level.

Even after making it, a player can have everything taken away in an instant, even if it is through no fault of their own. Adam Greenberg discovered that the hard way, but he never quit and emerged as one of baseball’s best kinds of success stories.

An outfielder, the left-handed Greenberg was a ninth-round draft choice of the Chicago Cubs out of the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill in 2002. A strong hitter for average, he possessed good speed and a strong glove; skills that allowed him to move quickly through the team’s system.

Midway through the 2005 season, he was called up to the majors. He made his major league debut on July 9th, pinch-hitting in the ninth inning for pitcher Will Ohman. With his family in the stands, Greenberg faced left-handed Florida pitcher Valerio De Los Santos. On the very first pitch he saw in the big leagues, the rookie took a fastball off the back of his head. Fortunately, he was able to leave the game under his own power, but suffered a concussion and saw his season cut short because of the ensuing symptoms.

Coming back in 2006, he was sent to the minors but couldn’t shake all of the after-effects of his injury, saw his production decline and was released by the Cubs in June. After that, he bounced around, playing in the minors for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Angels and the Kansas City Royals—but he was never able to get back to the majors and resume what had been taken away so quickly.

In 2009 he joined the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League and started a new phase of his career, producing very good numbers.

His brief major league stint remained an unjust memory for many fans. One, named Matt Liston, started an online petition, calling for Greenberg to receive an official major league at-bat. Incredibly, the Marlins stepped to the plate and signed the outfielder to a one-day contract in 2012 to give him the chance that had eluded him years before.

Greenberg, who donated his Marlins’ salary to charity, pinch hit for outfielder Bryan Peterson in the bottom of the sixth inning of a game against the New York Mets on October 2, 2012. Facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, he finally got his official major league at-bat after more than seven years in the making. Although he went down on strikes, it was the kind of wonderful moment that makes baseball such an emotional and enjoyable game.

After signing and being released before the end of 2013 spring training with the Baltimore Orioles, Greenberg played in 30 games with Bridgeport, but hit just .220. The soon-to-be 33-year-old recently officially retired, ending one of baseball’s best underdog stories.

In addition to his brief time in the majors, he hit a combined .262 with 43 home runs, 331 RBIs, 261 stolen bases and an excellent .372 OBP in 11 seasons in the minors and independent ball. More information about his career statistics is available at

Last year (before he retired), I had an opportunity to ask Greenberg some questions about his career. It was fascinating to find out a little more about one of baseball’s good guys and great stories, so keep reading for more.

Adam Greenberg Interview:

Who was your favorite team and player growing up?: The New York Yankees and Don Mattingly.

Can you talk a bit about what your draft experience was like?: It was exciting time for sure. This was everything I had worked for growing up. My family and I watched the draft online from home.

How did you first find out you were being called up to the majors for the first time?: I happened to be in a Days Inn in Tennessee when the Cubs called.

Can you explain your feelings after being injured in your first major league at-bat and how it impacted your career?: At first there wasn't any concern. I thought I would have been back right away, but that wasn't the case.  When I realized there were issues with the positional vertigo, there was definite concern for my health and whether or not I could continue my career.  Everything happens for a reason and I have no regrets.  I am currently in the best shape of my life and playing ball at the highest level right now.

What are your current baseball plans?: I played extremely well with the Orioles organization this spring and have no regrets. I know I have the ability to contribute to a major league ball club and help them win games. My current plan is to continue to work out and wait to see if another team calls. 

How did your contract with the Marlins come about last year, and what was that experience like?: The contract came about from the generosity of Matt Liston and his One-at-Bat campaign.  Matt and his team were able to get 25 thousand signatures on a petition to get me back to the big leagues for an at-bat. With the help of social media and the human spirit, they were able to bring tons of media attention. The experience was like no other...a dream come true! Leading up to the at-bat and stepping back in the box on the major league level was amazing. 

I can't thank Matt, the fans, Marlins and Major League Baseball enough!

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

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