I’d never heard of Adam Greenberg before I went to see him speak last night at Temple of Aaron in St. Paul. He spoke as a guest of the Jewish National Fund. If you ever planted a tree in Israel, the JNF was probably in the picture. I learned last night that it is now also supporting settlement of the Negev among several other worthy projects in Israel.
From an early age Adam was a gifted athlete and driven competitor. He excelled at three sports — baseball, basketball, and soccer — but baseball was his first love. He played baseball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a junior in 2002, he hit .337, stole 35 bases, scored 80 runs, homered 17 times, and led the ACC with seven triples. That got the attention of the Cubs, who drafted him that year.
After three years in the Cubs system he got the call to the show in the summer of 2005. Inserted as the pinch hitter in the ninth inning of his first game up, this is what happened next (video below, about five minutes).
Adam was drilled by a fastball to the back of his head on the first pitch of his first at bat. He sustained a compound skull fracture. He suffered vertigo. His vision was impaired. It took two-and-a-half years to overcome the physical effects of his injuries. Then he returned to baseball in the hopes of making it back to the bigs.
Toward the end of his journey back to the bigs, Adam got a call from Brad Ausmus. As one thing led to another, Adam ended up playing for Israel’s first World Baseball Classic Team. Adam was “relentlessly positive about this experience, as he has been about everything that’s happened since he was hit in the head by the only pitch he saw as a Major Leaguer on July 9, 2005.” You can find that piece of the story here.
His second at bat came in 2012 when the Miami Marlins signed him to a one-day contract. Adam paid tribute to his Marlins teammates that day. They welcomed him back to the bigs and treated him with respect. Facing Cy Young Award-winner R.A. Dickey, Adam struck out on three knuckleballs. This is a story with a happy ending courtesy of O. Henry.
Adam’s story touched me deeply. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it other than the power of Adam’s spirit, which shines through every word of his remarks. I thought readers unfamiliar with his story might find it of interest.
UPDATE: A friend forwards this photo of me with Adam after the event.