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Adam Greenberg’s life has, up to this point, been defined by a single moment. One fleeting second, maybe even less, has marked Greenberg’s struggle for success ever since July 9, 2005.
That was the day when Greenberg, then just 24 years old, grabbed a bat, put on his batting helmet and stepped up to the plate at Pro Player Stadium in Miami.
It was his very first game as a Chicago Cub, his first appearance in the major league, the culmination of a lifelong dream that was birthed in Guilford and nurtured through high school, college and the minor leagues. Tapped by then Cubs manager Dusty Baker to pinch-hit in the top of the ninth inning, Greenberg was ready.
“I was certainly very excited,” he recalls. “I had all sorts of great emotions and confidence. I was there to help the Cubs win.”
Facing him on the mound was the Florida Marlins’ Valerio de los Santos, who wound up and fired a fastball that was clocked at 92 mph.
Greenberg’s first pitch as a major leaguer. A dream come true.
A split second later, it was all over. A single moment, now the defining episode in a baseball career that had brimmed with passion and hope and zeal.
De los Santos’ fastball hit Greenberg in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. He suffered a mild concussion and was forced to leave the game (the Cubs won).
His first major league appearance—gone in a blink. And so far, it’s his only appearance in the majors. Greenberg was sent back down to the minors shortly after the incident, and, thanks to the lingering physical and psychological effects of the beaning, has yet to return to The Show.
Because of that, Greenberg has the dubious distinction of being one of just two players in baseball history to have been hit by a pitch in his only big-league at-bat without ever taking the field. (For the record, the other is Fred Van Dusen, who was beaned in 1955 as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.)
Since that day in 2005, Greenberg has been asked to tell his story countless times, including on camera in the documentary, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story.
“It’s something I’ve had to talk about a number of times,” he says with a laugh.
People won’t let him forget it. That’s actually a good thing, he says, because he doesn’t want to forget that day, that moment, that split second. “It’s part of what I’ve been through,” he says. “It’s part of who I am. It’s been a building process for me. I’ve had a lot of amazing times, and a lot of tough times. I’m such a stronger person for going through it.” But now, as a member of the independent Bridgeport Bluefish, he’s itching to get back to the majors.
Greenberg’s journey began in his hometown of Guilford, where he caught baseball fever at an early age. “I kind of picked it up and fell in love with the game,” says the lifelong Yankees fan. “I’ve always been competitive, and it’s just something that’s had a hold on me since I could walk.”
By the time he entered Guilford High School, Greenberg was a budding superstar. He became the first player in Connecticut history to be named for four all-state teams in baseball, and he earned Connecticut Male High School Athlete of the Year honors in 1998-99. While he was a natural athlete, says his high school coach, Randy Tyler, it was the intangibles that really made him stand out.
“He was probably the best player on the field, but what made him stand head and shoulders above all the other kids was his attitude, his work ethic and hustle,” Tyler says.