The first time Adam Greenberg got to the plate in a Major League baseball game he didn’t get a chance to hit the ball before the ball hit him.
Seven years later, he got another chance as a member of the team he opposed when he was knocked to the dirt by a wild pitch to the head.
Greenberg was a Miami Marlin for one day. His big-league debut redux lasted just 33 seconds and ended after three consecutive strikes, one looking, the next two swinging at R.A. Dickey’s deceptive 75-80 mph knuckleball that floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.
The record book will show Greenberg was a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday in the Marlins’ 4-3 victory over the Mets. That was it. He did not take the field.
Yet he got the one at-bat he was denied on July 9, 2005, when Marlins reliever Valerio de los Santos beaned the 24-year-old Chicago Cub in the back of the helmet with a 92-mph fastball that devastated the careers of both batter and pitcher.
His appearance in the Marlins’ penultimate game was the proverbial “cup of coffee” for a player who has toiled in the minor leagues since 2002.
But for Greenberg it was the realization of a dream deferred. It was his sip of champagne. He couldn’t stop smiling, and the dimples on his All-American face deepened even after he struck out — and returned to the dugout to a standing ovation from spectators and high fives from his temporary teammates.
He was the first to hustle to second base and congratulate Donovan Solano on his game-winning hit in the bottom of the 11th.
“No one was going to beat me out there,” Greenberg said.
He was the last to pause, look around the huge domed stadium and tip his cap to fans cheering for him, Adam Greenberg, a footnote, perhaps, in the stacks of baseball statistics, but no longer the answer to a trivia question.
His heartbreaking, heartwarming story reached nadir and apex in South Florida.
Greenberg, 31, is determined not to see it end. He is no Eddie Gaedel, the dwarf inserted in a 1951 game by ringmaster Bill Veeck. Greenberg considered his one-day contract an audition for spring training 2013. He would like to receive an invitation from the Marlins.
“I want to show what I can do — and you can’t do that in one at-bat in baseball, especially against a pitcher like Dickey,” he said. “I’m not out there as a sideshow. Hopefully, this is the start of Part II of my career.”
Greenberg got his second chance. He has fully recovered from the agonizing headaches and vertigo that afflicted him for two years after he was struck.
He got to wear No. 10, his old number with the Cubs, on the back of his white Marlins jersey, accompanied by orange spikes.
He got to take batting practice as curious players and coaches from both teams stood transfixed around the cage and appraised his form. On his last cut, he hit a rising line drive that nipped the right-field wall and dropped over into the stands for a home run.
He got to be feted as a rookie by his teammates, who made him sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while attired in a skimpy U.S. water polo team swimsuit.
He got to bat against a Cy Young Award contender.
He got to play in front of his parents, his four siblings, his wife, his college coach — about 100 relatives and friends.