Seven Years Later, Adam Greenberg Gets His Second Chance

Wednesday was the last day of the Major League Baseball
regular season, meaning excitement and drama for a handful of teams and a final
curtain for the rest. The New York Mets and Miami Marlins fit into the latter
category, two teams whose playoff hopes were dashed months ago. But on their
Tuesday night match-up in Miami was anything but meaningless for Adam
Greenberg.

For those unfamiliar with his story, Greenberg made his
major league debut on July 9, 2005 as 24-year-old for the Chicago Cubs. After
working his way through the minor leagues, his dream had been realized. After
one pitch, his dream was derailed. A fastball from the Marlins’ pitcher drilled
Greenberg in the back of the helmet, sending the helmet flying and Greenberg to
the ground. “I grabbed my head instantly because I really felt like I was
holding it together,” Greenberg says in documentary film maker Matt Liston’s “One
At Bat” campaign video
, which appears as part of a Change.org petition.

Greenberg sustained a concussion, one that had lasting
effects for years. He worked hard to return to the big leagues, but never made
it back—until Tuesday. Liston’s campaign focused on the Cubs, but when they
passed on the idea, the Marlins—the team whose pitcher hit Greenberg seven
years ago—signed him to a one-day contract.

Greenberg
finally got his first at-bat
(when you are hit by a pitch, it only counts
as a “plate appearance”) on Tuesday night. He struck out, but that was beside
the point. (Also, it should be noted that Greenberg had to face the Mets’ R.A.
Dickey, who leads the league in strikeouts; no easy task for any hitter this
season.) Adding to the feel-good story is the fact that Greenberg donated his
one-day salary to the Sports Legacy
Institute
, whose mission is to “advance the study, treatment and prevention
of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups.”

As a sportswriter says in Liston’s video, when Greenberg was
hit in the head, it was “before concussions became a major story in sports.
Back then, no one really thought twice about a concussion.” Things have
certainly changed for the better in that respect. Within hours of the suicide
of ex-football player Junior Seau
in May, many were asking which brain bank
would search for signs of damage. When Greenberg made his debut, how many
people even knew such an option existed?

Sports, particularly football, still have a long way to go
before concussions are no longer a serious concern. But the culture surrounding
head injuries has changed for the better since Greenberg made his major league
debut. At the very least, the effects of sports-related head injuries are part
of the mainstream discussion. Researchers are working on better treatments and,
more importantly, preventative measures. Who knows, maybe seven years from now
a player will get hit in the helmet and simply walk to first base.

–Andrew Kahn

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