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After graduating from Guilford High in 1999, he continued to show great promise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2000 and only improved from there.
His play had been known to professional scouts for some time, and he was drafted by the Cubs in the ninth round of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft. He made his professional debut for the single-A Lansing Lugnuts and gradually rose through the ranks of the Cubs’ farm system.
Greenberg was an outfielder for the double-A West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx when he finally got the call up from the parent club on July 7, 2005. Two days later, he was sprawled on the dirt at home plate in Miami.
After the beaning, Greenberg began rehabilitation and was sent back down to West Tennessee after a few weeks. The plan was to spend a little time getting back in shape and eventually return to the Cubs.
But the effects of that one pitch lingered, in the form of crushing headaches, vertigo and shaky vision that crippled his performance at the plate. Perhaps even more importantly, he needed to recover mentally and emotionally from that one devastating moment.
Unable to perform as he once had, he was released by the Cubs in June 2006. He eventually signed minor-league contracts with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds. There were flashes of his old promise at times, but he was never consistent enough to get back to the majors.
Yet he never gave up hope. He worked with a specialist in Chicago to correct his vision problems and regained confidence at the plate. Still an excellent fielder and speedy on the bases, he returned to Connecticut in 2009, where he signed with the Bluefish.
Refusing to give up on the game he loved, Greenberg finished the 2009 season in Bridgeport, and spent last season with the Bluefish as well, hitting .258 and leading the team in walks and stolen bases.
Last season was a good one for the Bluefish; they won a franchise-record 83 wins before falling in the league championships to the York Revolution. And once again, it was Greenberg’s hard-to-quantify traits that made him so valuable to the Bluefish.
“Adam is the smartest player on the club,” says team manager Willie Upshaw. “He helps the other guys with all aspects of the game, on and off the field. As a pro, he brings that attitude every day. That’s what makes Adam special—he never takes a day off mentally, physically or fundamentally. His attitude helps his teammates.”
Greenberg returns to the Bluefish this year after battling a handful of nagging injuries. He says he’s now recovered from shoulder surgery in 2009, but admits he’s frustrated by his failure to advance again to the majors.
“I certainly would have liked things to move quicker than they have,” he says. “It’s been five years, and I’m still not there. But I’m pleased with where I am.”
He also knows where he wants to go, and believes he just needs a single chance, a big game in front of a major league scout or a good word passed between coaches.
“I’m hoping for an opportunity,” he says. “I’m grinding it out the best I can. When an opportunity comes my way, I hope I can take advantage of it.
“I go out and play the best I can, no matter where I am,” he adds. “Besides that, I have to have someone believe in me, a little luck, someone taking a chance on me.”
Those who know Greenberg already have that faith in him and his potential. Says Randy Tyler, “He caught a tough break. He’s a hard-, hardworking kid, and he made it to the big leagues. He had an unfortunate accident, and a lot of people in the same situation would have given up. But Adam never gives up. I’ve always believed he’s going to make it because of his attitude.”
Greenberg’s story caught the eye of Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer Ira Berkow, who was working with director Peter Miller to produce Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (released in select theaters in late 2010). Berkow penned the film’s script, and he knew he needed to include Greenberg’s unique tale.
“For storytelling, his story was dramatic: A dream turns into a nightmare,” Berkow says. In fact, Berkow found Greenberg’s journey so affecting that he decided to conclude the film with an interview of the young player.
“You don’t have to be taught to never give up,” Greenberg says in the film. “Everyone is a part of this tribe. They’re just fighting to keep going and striving for excellence and striving to be on top.”
Berkow couldn’t have put it better himself. “He sums up the Jewish experience so brilliantly and poignantly,” he says.
Greenberg says his inclusion in Jews and Baseball was an incredible honor, one he will always treasure, especially because he was profiled alongside such baseball legends as Hank Greenberg (no relation), Al Rosen and Sandy Koufax.
“It was spectacular,” he says. “It was amazing, what they put together. [The film] told a great story, and to be associated with those great names was just a special experience, one I’ll be able to cherish forever. Just hearing [the legends’] stories, just knowing that you’re part of that story is an inspiration.”
Now Greenberg hopes that inspiration can help carry him back to the big leagues. If he gets there, Berkow says, his story will be known to all.
“It’s been an amazing roller-coaster ride,” says Greenberg, who married his longtime girlfriend, Lindsay, last October. “There have been so many ups and downs. It’s been filled with highs and lows, and I’ve gotten to do so much in the game. The game owes me nothing. I feel blessed to have had the experience, the experience I continue to have.”