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Seven years later, Greenberg fans in first major league at-bat

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- Regardless of the outcome, Adam Greenberg's at-bat was a success.

Greenberg struck out in the sixth inning for the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, completing his seven-year bid to get a major league at-bat.

In his first major league plate appearance, on July 9, 2005, Greenberg was hit in the head by a pitch. The head injury derailed his career, and he never made it back to the majors until Tuesday.

"It was magical," Greenberg said of Tuesday's experience. "The energy that was in the stadium is something I've never experienced in my life, and I don't know if I'll ever experience that again. Everyone that was there probably felt the same thing. The applause, you could just feel the genuine support. It was awesome."

The crowd of 29,709 gave Greenberg a standing ovation before his at-bat against New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Dickey struck out Greenberg on three pitches as Greenberg pinch-hit for Marlins left fielder Bryan Petersen to lead off the sixth. Greenberg took a first-pitch strike before swinging and missing on the next two pitches.

"After the strikeout, there was a lot of mixed emotions there," Greenberg said. "Getting high-fived after a strikeout by your entire team and having people cheer, it was different to say the least.

"It just proved that this really was important to a lot of people, my teammates, the organization, even the Mets, all of their guys. I felt them wanting me to get a hit, maybe not Dickey. He came after me just the same way that I would expect him to. He came at me like a big-league hitter. He beat me tonight, but I expect to have another opportunity to face him."

Greenberg was all smiles after the at-bat and was embraced by his teammates, and manager Ozzie Guillen reminded Greenberg that Dickey has struck out more than 220 batters this season.

"Everybody would like to hit in the big leagues, at least those who love baseball," Guillen said. "You know what went through my mind, how lucky I was to get 10,000 at-bats in the big leagues and how lucky God gave me the opportunity and health to have an opportunity to have a career in this game."

Dickey, in his last audition for the Cy Young Award, threw three straight knuckleballs to Greenberg during a 33-second at-bat.

"They look like they are coming at you, and then I swear it dropped (three feet) right at the plate, and gone, strike one," Greenberg said. "The other two stayed straight and took off. He's good. Like I said, he's an artist."

Dickey said, "I wanted him to have his moment and give him as much time as I could before I got on the rubber. I hope that what happened, the result of the at-bat, I think the story far transcends the result of the at-bat. That was important for him and me to treat him like a big-leaguer."

Greenberg, 31, signed a one-day contract with the Marlins worth $2,623, which will be donated to the Sports Legacy Institute for research into brain trauma in athletes.

"The first thanks needs to go to the Marlins, Mr. (Jeffrey) Loria and Mr. David Samson, who called me to welcome me to the team, the organization," Greenberg said. "I feel blessed, honored, and humbled at the response from everyone that's gone into making this dream become a reality."

While with the Chicago Cubs in his major league debut in 2005 against the Marlins, Greenberg was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Valerio de los Santos.

Greenberg, a ninth-round draft pick in 2002, suffered from vertigo following the incident and had symptoms the next two years while playing minor league baseball in the Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Royals organizations.

"Immediately after, I was just anxious to get back on the field," Greenberg recalled. "Unfortunately, that wasn't really going to be case, I learned quickly. I remember trying to tie my shoes and falling over. Rolling over in bed, my eyes would shift uncontrollably out of place. I'd have headaches for hours on end. The positional vertigo was really the thing that caused a lot of that. It was just challenging. I was concerned more with the quality of life than playing ball, although I was 24 years old, I was a kid, and I had the opportunity of a lifetime to play major league baseball."

Greenberg's dream to return back to the big leagues was helped along by filmmaker Matt Liston, a Cubs fan who began an online petition for the 5-foot-9 outfielder to receive one at-bat. Since Greenberg was hit by a pitch in his only plate appearance, it did not count as an official at-bat by baseball standards. Liston was able to gather over 20,000 signatures, which gained steam through social media websites.

"Of course I'd also like to thank Matt Liston and the entire oneatbat.com campaign," Greenberg said. "Without it and without social media, the power of the human spirit in believing in a cause, this would have never happened."

Greenberg also played parts of four seasons, 2008-11, in the independent Atlantic League for the Bridgeport (Conn.) Bluefish and part of 2008 in the Los Angeles Angels organization. He recently played for Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifying round.

"I've never lost the dream and desire to play major league baseball," Greenberg said. "I had it as a little kid, and after 2005 when what happened, happened to me, I never lost that dream no matter how down I got."

Marlins outfielder Justian Ruggiano was Greenberg's teammate and roommate on the road while at Double-A Jacksonville in the Dodgers system.

"Social media brought it out and was able to stand for something and get something done by their stance," Ruggiano said. "It just shows you how powerful it is. It seems like if you get enough people to rally for something, something can eventually get done."

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