When Adam Greenberg walked to the plate for his first major league at-bat in seven years on Tuesday night, he saw it as the beginning rather than the end of an inspiring journey.
The 31-year-old outfielder signed a one-day contract with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday and struck out on three pitches against New York Mets’ R.A. Dickey. When Greenberg was a 24-year-old rookie with the Chicago Cubs in 2005, he was struck in the head by a 92-mile-per-hour fastball by a Marlins pitcher Valerio De Los Santos on the first pitch of his first major-league at-bat. It took seven years and a viral online campaign, but Greenberg made his return to a standing ovation on Tuesday.
Joined by Matt Liston, the filmmaker and Cubs fan whose “One At-Bat’’ campaign helped persuade the Marlins to give him a second chance, Greenberg spoke with David Gregory on TODAY Wednesday. Greenberg doesn’t plan on Tuesday night being his final big-league plate appearance.Story: Injured baseball player gets a second chance
“I’m not done,’’ Greenberg said. “This is just the start. Matt and the ‘One At-Bat’ campaign and everyone that supported me, last night was the start of my career again, and I’m not done. That was not for show. That was for me to start my career over.’’
Greenberg was left with migraine-like symptoms and other complications after taking a fastball to the head in 2005, and he ended up bouncing around the minor-league systems of three different major-league organizations. He has not been in a big-league organization since 2008 and most recently played with the Israeli team in the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic.
On Tuesday, Greenberg conducted a news conference and took batting practice with the team before the game, even knocking one over the fence as he warmed up. In the sixth inning, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen sent him to bat for outfielder Bryan Petersen as the crowd gave him a standing ovation in the Marlins’ eventual 4-3 win over the Mets in 11 innings.
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“It was a chance to re-live my dream, and I soaked it all in,’’ Greenberg said. “I just remember walking up to the plate and digging in and stepping out. When I stepped out, I heard the roar of the crowd, and I felt an energy that I’ve never felt or experienced in my entire life. It was what dreams are made of, and mine came true last night for that moment that I was in there. I had a blast.’’
It also was a special moment for Liston, who was so moved by Greenberg’s story that he decided to start an online petition and film a short video to help get Greenberg one more major-league at-bat. Liston watched Tuesday’s game in the crowd with Greenberg’s family.
“When he just strolled up to the plate, you saw the No. 10 and ‘Greenberg’ on the back, and it was amazing,’’ Liston told Gregory. “I’ll never forget it. I’ve never been more excited for a single at-bat in my life. When he stepped up there, it was a great example for people to never give up on your dream, to continue to believe, and it was just an honor to be there to see him step up to the plate.’’
Greenberg didn’t have it easy in his one at-bat, either. Dickey, a Cy Young candidate who is second in the National League with 20 wins and a 2.73 earned run average, threw Greenberg three straight versions of his signature pitch, the knuckleball. Greenberg looked at the first one for a strike and then swung and missed at the next two.
“(Dickey) is one of the best in the game right now,’’ Greenberg said. “The first pitch he threw, I was geared up and ready. It dropped about three feet right before it got to home plate. The one thing I knew is that I was going to go up swinging, go down swinging, one way or another.’’
“I wanted him to have his moment,’’ Dickey told reporters after the game. “For sure, I tried to give him as much time as I felt like I could before I got on the rubber. I think the story far transcends the result of the at-bat. Just like I said before, that was important -- for him and me, I think -- for me to treat him like a big leaguer."
Following the game, there was a party for Greenberg at Marlins Park for what he hopes is only the first step in his comeback and not the final one.
“It was a magical moment for me that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,’’ he told NBC News. “It was never about the result or the at-bat. It was just getting in the box. I was ready to play major-league baseball again, and I got that chance.’’
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