Adam Greenberg was beaned in the head by the first big-league pitch he faced. (Josh Ritchie )
There have been 226 baseball players whose major league career consisted of one plate appearance. Adam Greenberg was determined not to join the group.
Even as he was being rushed to a hospital after being hit in the head with the first big league pitch he saw, Greenberg was thinking about a comeback.
"I grew up wanting to play major league baseball since I was 5 years old," Greenberg says. "And going through the grind at every level . . . I didn't do all that stuff for one pitch. So when it was stripped from me, there was nothing that was going to stand in my way from legitimately playing major league baseball."
Greenberg, an outfielder, rose rapidly through the Chicago Cubs' minor league system before being called up to the majors in July 2005. But in his first at-bat, he was hit in the back of the head by Marlins reliever Valerio de los Santos.
The beaning sent Greenberg, then a 24-year-old prospect, to the disabled list with a concussion. When he was reactivated, he was returned to the minors, where he battled vertigo, headaches and vision problems while batting .118, .215, .179 and .228 in the first four stops on a road that would eventually lead to the independent Atlantic League.
Greenberg got a second big league at-bat last October when the Marlins, in a public relations stunt, signed him to a one-day contract and used him as a pinch-hitter against the New York Mets. But Greenberg, who hadn't batted in a game at any level in more than a year, struck out on three pitches against Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
Now Greenberg says he wants to make it all the way back on his own terms. That's why, at 32, he's in the Baltimore Orioles' minor league camp competing for a job against kids who were in grade school when he made his professional debut.
"I've already achieved the success part just by making it," says Greenberg, who says his comeback has been much harder that his original climb to the majors. "But I want to have the opportunity to make a diving catch in the outfield, steal a base, score a run, contribute to a major league ballclub.
"Ultimately, that's why I played: to help a team at the big league level."