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January 4, 2013 5:42 pm

Adam Greenberg’s Second Coming as a Jewish Major Leaguer

avatar by Zack Raab

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Adam Greenberg's baseball card.

Adam Greenberg’s career in the Major Leagues seemingly came to an abrupt ending with just one pitch on July 9, 2005.

Making his major league debut for the Chicago Cubs as a pinch hitter, Greenberg strolled up to the batter’s box only to be hit directly in the back of his head seconds later by a 91-mph fastball thrown by Florida Marlins pitcher Valerio de los Santos.

“I thought my head was splitting in half, and I was trying to hold it together,” he said. Greenberg suffered a mild concussion, was immediately removed from the game, and spent the rest of the 2005 season on the disabled list.

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After the Cubs released him in June 2006, Greenberg bounced around the minor leagues with several teams for a few years, and spent 2009-2011 playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish in the Independent Atlantic League.

Greenberg’s sad career took an optimistic twist last September when he got a chance to represent Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in Jupiter, Florida. Greenberg walked during his one at bat as a pinch hitter and scored on a single by Shawn Green during a game against South Africa.

“It was pretty cool, going out there, wearing ‘Israel’ across my chest,” Greenberg, who is Jewish,said. “And I know everyone in the locker room felt the same. It was a special day, a special moment.”

Those of us watching Greenberg bat during the qualifier game were filled with excitement as another Jewish underdog story played out in front of our own eyes.

I was lucky enough to be sitting in the row right above Israel’s dugout wearing my “Team Israel” baseball cap. Along with many other Jewish fans at Roger Dean Stadium that day, I stood and applauded Greenberg as he walked up to the plate for his one appearance.

Jewish baseball fans are always immensely proud when a Jew makes it to the Major Leagues, but it turns out that putting “Israel” on his chest might have signaled a miraculous second coming in Greenberg’s career. But that was only the start of what might be Adam Greenberg’s Second Coming as a Jewish Major Leaguer.

Thanks to an online campaign called “One At Bat” which urged a major league team to give Greenberg one more chance, Greenberg was signed to a one-day contract by the (now) Miami Marlins who sent him up as a pinch hitter on October 2 in a game against the New York Mets.

Greenberg was greeted by a rousing standing ovation by Marlins fans who embraced his story and his strong comeback effort. Though he struck out on three pitches, he returned to the Marlins dugout with an ear-to-ear smile and was welcomed by high-fives and hugs from his Marlins teammates for the day.

“It was magical,” he said. “The energy in the stadium was something I never experienced, and I don’t know if I will ever experience it again. You could just feel the genuine support. It was awesome.”

The most recent chapter of his comeback story was written earlier this month, more than seven years after his first ill-fated plate appearance, after he contacted Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter at the baseball winter meetings.

“I just walked up to him, introduced myself,” Greenberg said. “I’ve always kind of looked at Buck and said that would be the guy that I would love to play [for], that type of hard-nose mentality.”

After contacting general manager Dan Duquette and special assistant Brady Anderson, the Orioles signed Greenberg to a minor league contract, giving him a chance to resume his professional baseball career. But Greenberg knows that this might as well be his last chance to make a comeback.

“The last few years have been very, very difficult and challenging, but I got myself physically where I need to be and more important than anything, mentally I’m at a point in my career where I’m able to commit 110 percent back to the game,” he said. “To get the opportunity with the Orioles means everything to me.”

All of Greenberg’s fans are hoping that he makes it back into the major leagues as a member of the Orioles. But whatever happens, Greenberg’s story of resilience in recovering from his dramatic and nearly deadly debut continues to inspire people to keep chasing their dream no matter what obstacles are thrown in the way.

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