Add one more name to the list of Jewish baseball players who have had an at-bat in the major leagues.
Adam Greenberg, arguably the most prominent Jew in sports in recent weeks, walked to home plate last week, bat in hand, for the first time in 2012. It was the first – and probably final – official at-bat of his pro career, on the penultimate day of the regular season.
Greenberg’s first at-bat, seven years ago, didn’t make it into the box score.
Called up from a Double-AA team, he was on the Chicago Cubs, who had drafted him out of the University of North Carolina. The first pitch he faced in the majors, a 92 mph fastball by the Miami Martlins’ Valerio de los Santos, hit him in the head, causing a concussion that in effect ended Greenberg’s major league career. A base runner that day replaced him. Hit-by-pitch does not count as an at-bat; Greenberg’s career line score was 0-0, although he had an on-base percentage of 1.000.
Over the succeeding years, Greenberg, now 31, struggled with vertigo, severe headaches, double vision and nausea, fighting to get back to the majors; most of the time he spent in the minor leagues, usually with independent teams that had no affiliation with a major league parent team; earlier this summer he was on the roster of the Israeli team that narrowly missed qualifying for the World Baseball Classic.
Greenberg founded a nutritional supplement firm; a spot on a major league roster, even a second at-bat, seemed out of reach.
Until last week.
Earlier this year, Matt Liston, an avid Cubs fans and documentary filmmaker who didn’t know Greenberg from … well, Adam, heard about Greenberg’s story and started an OneAtBat petition drive on Greenberg’s behalf; it collected more than 20,000 signatures.
Eventually, Marlins’ General Manager David Samson, with the blessings of major league baseball’s Commissioner Bud Selig, offered Greenberg a one-day contract.
On Tuesday, the second day of Sukkot, he entered a game against the Mets as a sixth-inning pinch hitter. He faced knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey, a 20-game winner this season who is a front-runner to win the Cy Young Award as the National League’s top pitcher.
Greenberg struck out on three pitches.
The crowd, which gave Greenberg a standing ovation when he walked to home plate, did it again when he walked back to the dugout.
For Greenberg – career at-bats: 0-1 – the day was a success.
“It was magical,” he said. “It’s going to last an eternity for me.” Topps, which makes baseball cards, announced that it will issue one for Greenberg as part of the Marlins’ 2013 set.
Greenberg is donating the day’s salary to the Marlins’ foundation, which in turn will forward it to the Sports Legacy Institute, an organization that studies the effects of brain traumas in athletes.
Jewish tradition lauds the individual who, knocked down, keeps getting up. Which Greenberg understands. “Life throws curveballs and fastballs at your head,” the Connecticut native told the ctnow.com website. “I got hit by one of them. I went down. I could have stayed there. I chose to get back up and get in the box.”
Now he’s officially part of Jewish baseball history.