CHICAGO -- The major league baseball season has three weeks remaining, but Adam Greenberg's season is just beginning.
Greenberg, a former pro baseball player, has trained all summer, working with a hitting coach, throwing, running, and lifting -- he can be seen on YouTube, shirtless and cut, clean-and-jerking a couple hundred pounds.
Greenberg is training for his second chance. After a fastball to the back of the head in 2005 ended his major league career with the Chicago Cubs in his first plate appearance, he is the subject of a "One At Bat" campaign designed to give him a major league at-bat.
Matt Liston, a filmmaker and longtime Chicago Cubs fan, started a petition on Change.org that he hoped would give Greenberg a shot at another major league at-bat.
"I believe it can happen," Liston said. "We can't do it three or four years from now, but we can do it right now."
As of Thursday, more than 21,000 people had signed the petition.
"I had to go for it," Greenberg said. "What do I have to lose? It was really cool to have somebody reach out to me the way that he did out of sheer emotion."
Greenberg's injury, and the timing of it, can cause that type of emotion. The Cubs drafted Greenberg, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound outfielder, in the ninth round in 2002 out of North Carolina. They purchased his contract July 7, 2005, from Class AA, and he made his major league debut two days later at age 24.
Greenberg pinch-hit for Will Ohman in the ninth inning against the Florida Marlins. The first pitch Valerio de los Santos threw to Greenberg hit him squarely in the back of the head.
"That was obviously one of the most unfortunate things that happened in baseball," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "A kid's only at-bat, and for that to happen … it's awful to think we spend our whole lives wanting to play in the [major] leagues, and you get here and something like that happens."
Greenberg suffered a concussion and developed vertigo and vision problems. He returned to the field three weeks later, but the symptoms hadn't subsided and he found himself back in the hospital.
He spent the next few seasons in the minors and played for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish from '08-11, but never returned to the majors. Tired of making a couple thousand dollars a month with no insurance, he took this year off and helped to start a nutrition company.
A hit-by-pitch goes in the books as a plate appearance, but not an at-bat, so Greenberg lacks an official MLB at-bat. Liston wants to change that.
"I remember being really bummed out when he didn't re-sign with the Cubs, so he never got his at-bat with the Cubs," Liston said. "I wanted to see him get an at-bat in a Cubs uniform, and that didn't happen."
Liston is a television and film producer known for the documentaries Chasing October and Catching Hell, which chronicled some of the ups and downs of the Cubs in the past decade. Once Liston got Greenberg's approval before spring training this year, he went to work. He spread the word and spoke to baseball people, including Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker, the former Cubs manager who sent Greenberg up to pinch-hit, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer and several players.
"Just to see that many people showing support for me, it's beyond words," Greenberg said.
For Greenberg to get his at-bat, a team must add him to their 40-man roster, a process that could interfere with the way a team manages its prospects. Hoyer recently told the Chicago Tribune that the Cubs would not add Greenberg to the roster. Liston said some teams that had 40-man vacancies had expressed interest but would not say which ones.
Liston planned to fly to Florida Thursday to join Greenberg, who hopes to play for Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifying round that begins Sept. 19. Liston has chronicled some of Greenberg's efforts this year and is considering making a documentary about it, but no decision has been made. He and Greenberg remain hopeful that a team will take a chance.
"I'm not looking for that handout," Greenberg said. "I'm looking to prove myself and I'm just looking for that shot on the field."
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill Brink is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
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