The career stats page for Adam Greenberg reads like a mystery: one lone at-bat in 2005 with the Chicago Cubs followed by seven years of nothing before, again, a lone plate appearance in 2012. Sure enough, beneath the surface of the black-and-white numbers lies an incredible story of cruel fate and determination. On this date, October 2, 2012, Adam Greenberg stepped to the plate as a member of the Miami Marlins, receiving an at-bat in the big leagues seven years after he took a ball to the head in his first career plate appearance, a hit-by-pitch that derailed his career.
Greenberg methodically worked his way through the Cubs organization after Chicago picked him in the ninth round of the 2002 draft, ascending to Triple-A Iowa by 2004. After beginning the 2005 season with Double-A West Tennessee, the outfielder earned a call-up directly to the majors on July 7. On July 9, Greenberg realized his dream of playing in the big leagues, pinch-hitting in the top of the 9th in a game against Florida. On the very first pitch, Marlins pitcher Valerio De Los Santos beaned Greenberg in the back of the head with a 92 mph fastball. It gave Greenberg a concussion and forced him to exit the game.
In 1955, Fred Van Dusen of the Phillies became the only player in MLB history to be hit by a pitch in the only at-bat of his career without also playing in the field; as the 24-year-old Greenberg's career played out over the ensuing years, it appeared he was all but set to join Van Dusen in that disheartening club. The lingering effects of the concussion made recovery exceedingly difficult for Greenberg, as he had to deal with vertigo and blurred vision. Back in the minors, his performance suffered in kind, and the Cubs released Greenberg in 2006. He finished that year with the Dodgers organization and had stints with minor league teams of the Royals and Angels over the next two years before moving on to the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League, remaining with the Bluefish for three seasons. After 2011, it appeared Greenberg's time as a baseball player was done. He stopped playing the game and began running a business (one which sold deer antler supplements a year or so before Ray Lewis made them famous).
That was when a filmmaker (and Cubs fan) named Matt Liston stepped in. Liston launched the One At-Bat campaign, designed to raise awareness of Greenberg's story in the hopes a Major League team would give him a chance to redeem himself and provide a happier end to his baseball career, if nothing else. The Miami Marlins, on the other side of Greenberg's personal disappointment in 2005, obliged. The Marlins signed him to a one-day contract, and on the second-to-last day of the 2012 regular season, in the 6th inning of a game against the Mets, Greenberg was sent to the plate as a pinch-hitter. Finally, he was back.
Unfortunately, Greenberg struck out on three pitches against knuckleballer and eventual Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, providing an unproductive at-bat in a meaningless game between two losing ballclubs. But that didn't matter--after seven long years of struggle, Greenberg had made it back, granted a chance for a do-over on a dream that had twisted into a nightmare with one scary pitch. He received a standing ovation as he walked back to the dugout, and after the game, Greenberg called it a "magical" experience.
The dose of attention provided a springboard for Greenberg to restart his baseball career. He was invited to spring training with the Orioles before this season, and though he didn't make the team, he returned to the Bluefish to play out 2013. Baseball can be cruel--as quickly as it remembered Greenberg, it appears to have already forgotten him, as Bridgeport placed Greenberg on its inactive list on May 31, with no mention of him in its news archives around that date. The evidence points to Greenberg's career once again coming to a close, this time permanently in all likelihood. Still, after all he went through, Greenberg's story stands as an inspiring tale of personal achievement.