He got to watch the Marlins Park center field sculpture leap to life when Gorkys Fernandez and Rob Brantly hit home runs. (He also got to watch Heath Bell blow his eighth save of the season by squandering a 3-0 lead in the eighth.)
In fact, he was the star of “The Show” he had always aspired to. He’s spent the past three days doing TV interviews. He will be pictured on his own Topps rookie card.
He was swarmed by photographers and followed by cameramen collecting footage for a documentary being made by Matt Liston, the filmmaker and Cubs fan who started the whole “One-At-Bat” campaign seven months ago and launched a website to petition Commissioner Bud Selig on Greenberg’s behalf. Greenberg credited social media and the “power of the people” for his opportunity.
“It’s an underdog story and everyone can grab on and relate to it,” said Greenberg’s father, Mark. “Adam has worked so hard for so many years. He never gave up.”
He’s the talk of his hometown, Guilford, Conn.
He’s become a folk hero flooded by emails and letters from people inspired by his perseverance.
“Kids are doing school reports, sending pictures,” Greenberg said. “It’s not about playing baseball. It’s ‘I can be a doctor!’ Life throws you curveballs. I was thrown a 92-mph fastball. Believe in yourself. Get up and go on.”
If Greenberg doesn’t revive his baseball career, he could be a motivational speaker.
Hard-eyed observers called Greenberg’s appearance a smiley-face publicity stunt by a franchise playing the meaningless 161st game of a dreadfully disappointing season. If Greenberg was a legit talent, surely he would have been called up again years ago. Plenty of people referred to him as “kid” but the kid is 31.
“I’m very proud of the kid, he’s a hard worker and he made me realize how lucky I was to play so many years,” Ozzie Guillen said. “But for the other people out there, don’t get no ideas. That’s enough. Who doesn’t want to bat in the big leagues? This is a big-league game, not a pickup game.”
Greenberg played the past four years for the Bridgeport Bluefish but took most of the past season off to start a business called Lurong Living, which sells a nutritional supplement made from velvet deer antler. He said the extract helped him overcome the dizziness and double vision he suffered after his beaning.
On Tuesday he got to meet Fred Van Dusen, who was flown in by the Marlins to throw out the first pitch and reclaim his record as the only player to be hit by a pitch in his only major-league at-bat and not take the field — “a record you don’t really strive for,” Van Dusen said.
Van Dusen, 75, knows how damaging it is to be a prospect who doesn’t reach his potential. He was 18 when he was called up by the Phillies in 1955 and was hit in the leg. He played for Miami in the minors with Satchel Paige, traveled to Havana to play against the Sugar Kings. But he never got back to the big leagues.
“I was too immature to appreciate what I had until it was gone and I paid a heavy price,” said Van Dusen, who said he battled depression and alcohol and drug abuse and could not attend a game for years after his baseball career ended. “The Derek Jeters, they have the same disposition whether they go 4-for-4 or 0-for-4. When I went into a slump, I almost ended up in a straitjacket.”
He recalled going to visit a former manager he played for when he was an MVP and home run leader in the minors.
“He did not remember me,” Van Dusen said. “He was interested in the Hall of Famers, not the rinky-dink players. It taught me that that’s the way life is.”
Van Dusen went on to own a successful insurance business for 43 years in New York.
“But it’s not the same as playing baseball,” he said, sounding bittersweet. “I hope Adam savors this moment in time.”