Adam Daniel Greenberg is the son of Mark and Wendy Greenberg of
After growing up in Connecticut, going to Friday night services regularly, celebrating holidays, getting into the Wednesday and Sunday Hebrew school routine and being bar mitzvahed (four of the five kids in the Greenberg family have been bar/bat mitzvahed, with No. 5 coming of age soon), Greenberg left that insular Jewish community to attend the University of North Carolina [and play baseball].
"There's just not very many Jewish people down there," Greenberg said. "Ninety percent of the team had never met a Jewish person. People would want to talk to me about it. Yes, comments would be made, but uneducated people are going to make uneducated comments. But it was never a detriment."
At the time, Greenberg’s main problem was overcoming the perception that a 5’ 9” player was too small to play professional baseball. But he starred in college, and was drafted in 2002 by the Chicago Cubs.
He played three seasons in the minors, preparing himself to fill one of the Cubs’ needs: a leadoff hitter who could get on base, and improve their near-bottom major league on-base percentage ranking. Interviewed last fall in the Arizona Fall League, he told a reporter:
"They led the league in home runs, but were near the bottom in on-base percentage (11th in the NL)," said Greenberg, who has a career OBP of .384. "Keep putting more people on base and keep hitting home runs, you do the math, you're going to score more runs. If they need a leadoff hitter, that's what I bring to the table. I have to believe that."
On July 8, 2005, he got called up to the Cubs. The next day, in the ninth inning, with his parents, sister and two brothers in the stands (they made the trip from
Dick Pole, the Cubs' bench coach, called down the bench and said: "Greeny, grab a bat. You're hitting for the pitcher." Wendy Greenberg said she was bursting with pride. . . .
It was a moment of pure joy and excitement when her son strode to the plate, she said. "He looked so comfortable, like he belonged," she said.
"And he had said, 'Mom, wait until you see my new stance.' . . .
His father, Mark Greenberg, said: "Adam was always so determined, so focused. And now there he was."
And then here is what happened, as recounted by New York Times sportswriter Ira Berkow:
[N]o one imagined that the very first pitch the left-handed Greenberg faced in the major leagues would be a fastball that would crack him squarely in the head, smashing against his helmet and the part of his neck just under his right ear, making a sound so loud that it stunned the crowd of almost 23,000. . . .
He remembers seeing the pitch released -- it was clocked at 91 m.p.h. -- and remembers it coming right at his head. He remembers trying to turn away. And he remembers the resounding crash of ball against head. . . .
"I was stunned, and then I felt my brain exploding," he said. . . . . He slumped to the ground as the crowd fell silent. . . . "I thought my head was splitting in half, and I was trying to hold it together," he said.
Paul Lo Duca, the Marlins' catcher . . . quietly told [Cubs Manager Dusty] Baker, who had run out to the plate, "He got hit hard, man."
Greenberg left the game, was put on the disabled list, and began a long recovery that is still going on. As the Cubs’ website notes, his major league record so far is one game, no at-bat, but an on-base percentage of 1.000.
He’s currently at the Cubs’ spring-training facility in
Here’s my suggestion: Let’s email him some encouragement, c/o the Cubs. He could use some digital chicken soup. Maybe the blogosphere can help him get back into the game.
(Hat tip: Nextbook).