Adam Greenberg
(LA Times/Josh Ritchie)

Imagine it’s your first Major League plate appearance. Thousands of people around you in a colossal stadium and your entire family in the crowd as well. Your mind is absolutely flustering and you can’t quite put it into words. The pitcher goes into the wind, throws the rock, and then you realize it’s coming right toward your head. Then, lights out. Adam Greenberg experienced this, and it’s a sad case, to say the least.

The Chicago Cubs drafted Adam Greenberg in the ninth round of the 2002 Major League Draft. He had speculation as a speedy leadoff hitter. A man who could get on base consistently. His on-base percentage in the minors prior to his debut was .387. The Cubs saw an opportunity in him, as he was getting on base more efficiently than the team’s outfielders, Corey Patterson and Todd Hollandsworth. So, on July 5, 2005, a roster spot opened up for the young outfielder. The Cubs pulled the trigger and called up Greenberg to face the Marlins that day.

When Adam Greenberg was hit in the head by the infamous Valerio de los Santos fastball, he fell to the ground, cradling his head, as if he were holding the pieces of it together. Santos later said, “The sound, the way he went down – the first thing that went through your mind was, ‘this guy is dead.'”

What followed was Greenberg suffering a massive concussion. The rest of the season was spent on the disabled list. Greenberg had awful symptoms of vertigo, dizziness, headaches, and nausea as a result of the injury.

After recovering from what occurred, Adam spent the next eight seasons in the low minors, and independent baseball for awhile. At the same time, a small group of Marlins fans felt awful for what came of his career. They formed a petition to have him hit one last time, and for the team to sign him to a one-day contract. The plan worked, and he was “called up” on October 2, 2012. The real kicker here is that he was playing against that year’s Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey. So what happened? Exactly what you’d expect. Greenberg struck out on three pitches. Yes, it was a very cool gesture, but part of me wishes he was able to hit against someone who was less difficult to hit off of.

Oh well, that’s the sad and short legacy of Adam Greenberg. He retired from baseball in 2014. He is one of two players in Major League History who were hit by a pitch without even taking the field.

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