Seven years after Cubs rookie Adam Greenberg was hit in the head and injured by the first and only pitch he saw in the Major Leagues, the 31-year-old is making good on his vow to return to the big leagues.
Fighting to recover from vertigo and other issues after the beaning, Greenberg bounced around in the minor leagues for the Cubs and other teams for a few years before playing for a lower-level independent league and most recently for the Israeli national team. But a filmmaker's "One At Bat" campaign for Greenberg persuaded the Miami Marlins to give Greenberg a one-day contract and a second shot in the big leagues during a Marlins home game on Tuesday.
"Believe me, you're going to get one at-bat," David Sampson, president of the Marlins, told Greenberg Thursday on NBC's "Today" show. "So get ready."
His eyes looking a bit teary, a grateful Greenberg responded, "From the bottom of my heart, I'll be ready for it. That I can assure you."
Other teams, including the Cubs, passed on the chance for the publicity stunt. But more than 25,000 fans, touched by the OneAtBat.com campaign by die-hard Cubs fan and documentary filmmaker Matt Liston signed an online petition at Change.org urging baseball to give Greenberg a true at-bat, since getting hit by a pitch doesn't count as an at-bat. Greenberg's plight mirrored the fate of Archie "Moonlight" Graham, whose story of how he played in the field but never got a big league at-bat was immortalized in the emotional baseball movie "Field of Dreams."
Now, Greenberg's dream will come true.
"I wanted to put the spotlight on Adam," Liston said on "Today."
Just as legendary baseball owner and showman Bill Veeck once gave a one-day contract to 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel, who walked in his only at-bat with the St. Louis Browns in 1951, Greenberg is promised one at-bat during the Marlins' home game Tuesday against the New York Mets, featuring two teams with losing records.
Unlike Gaedel, Greenberg worked his way to the Major Leagues once and now is getting the shot with manager Ozzie Guillen's Marlins.
The Marlins will pay Greenberg a prorated share ($2,963) of the Major League minimum annual salary of $480,000. Greenberg, a Connecticut native, is donating that back to the team, which will then donate it to the Sports Legacy Institute, an agency that promotes the study, treatment and prevention of brain injuries.
Greenberg's first plate appearance also came in Miami against the Marlins on July 9, 2005. The Cubs, trying to inject life into what would be another losing season, called up minor leaguers Matt Murton and Greenberg. A scrappy center fielder hitting just .269, Greenberg took the spot of Cubs prospect Felix Pie, who was scheduled to be brought up to the Cubs but injured his ankle, remembers Bruce Miles, the longtime Daily Herald Cubs beat reporter who covered Greenberg's debut.
The 24-year-old rookie began and seemingly ended his Major League Baseball career as a pinch-hitter in an 8-2 Cubs victory. With Greenberg's proud parents watching from the stands, the first pitch, a 92-mph fastball from Marlins pitcher Valerio de los Santos, ricocheted off Greenberg's batting helmet behind his right ear with a sickening thud. The rookie fell to the ground and cradled his throbbing head with both hands. A dazed Greenberg was helped from the field as Carlos Zambrano, now a member of the Marlins, came in to pinch run for him.
"We remember very well being there in 2005," the Marlins' Sampson said during the announcement on the "Today" show.
"When Adam takes the plate on Tuesday with the Miami Marlins, it will be a magical moment in sports history -- not only for Adam, who has worked hard for this moment, but for baseball fans everywhere who love the emotion and thrill of the game," Liston said.
"We're happy for Adam," said Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer.
"In the movie, you'd hit a home run. But it might end up very differently," warned "Today" host Matt Lauer, alluding to disappointing outcomes that range from a weak strikeout to even getting hit by a pitch. "It might not have a great ending. Are you worried about that?"
"No," said a grinning Greenberg, sporting his new Marlins hat. "This has already been a happy ending right now."