Adam Greenberg went to this month’s Winter Meetings in Nashville like many people do: To find a job. Unlike most of them, he was successful. On Thursday, the Orioles announced he had signed a minor league contract.
The Orioles sign minor leaguers regularly, many times not even announcing them. This was different.
You may remember Greenberg. He had a promising career ruined when he was hit in the head during his first major league at-bat in 2005 by a Marlins pitcher.
Seven years later, the Marlins signed him to a one-day contract so he could get a second at-bat. He struck out on three pitches, getting lots of publicity.
“The attention was great, but I’m a baseball player,” Greenberg said.
At 31, he’s getting a third chance for a more extended big league career.
“I still have the ability,” Greenberg said.
In the cavernous Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Greenberg got lucky. He saw Orioles manager Buck Showalter and introduced himself.
“He knew who I was. I told him I was looking for an opportunity.” Showalter had him speak with Brady Anderson, who’s a close aide to Dan Duquette and Anderson introduced him to Duquette. Two weeks later, he has a contract.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Greenberg said.
After his debacle, Greenberg, who was cut by the Chicago Cubs a year after his beaning, played for three more organizations and in 2009, had a shot at joining the Reds organization.
At the end of spring training he was cut, and signed with Bridgeport of the Atlantic League, tore his rotator cuff, but played through it. He kept playing independent ball and failed in a tryout with Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.
He’s kept going. Greenberg knows he won’t be challenging Adam Jones for the center field job, but he can also play left and right field. His strengths?
“My hardnosed style of play, my speed, my defense, my ability to get on base. Mentally, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been,” Greenberg said.
On Oct. 2, he got to face R.A. Dickey, and the Mets knuckleballer struck him out on three pitches.
“There’s no preparation for a guy who throws a knuckleball 80 mph, but I was prepared for that at-bat. I would love to face him again, and what do you know, he just signed with Toronto, I signed with the Orioles. I have the feeling I’ll face him again,” Greenberg said.
The Orioles were his first choice for two reasons: Showalter and Lew Ford. The Showalter part is easy.
“I grew up a Yankee fan, and I thought he would be the perfect manager for me,” he said.
But Ford? Greenberg and Captain Lew are kindred spirits, both refugees from Independent ball. Ford made a unlikely return to the big leagues last summer after nearly five years in the wilderness. Greenberg played against Ford and was excited to see the Orioles pick him up.
“The Orioles were the number one team on my list for that reason,” Greenberg said.
“If you play well, it doesn’t matter where you played; you get a chance.”
Greenberg isn’t getting an invitation to major league spring training, and he has a realistic aim in his team in Sarasota, Fla.
“My goal is to make the Triple-A roster as a fourth outfielder, a fifth outfielder. As long as I have a jersey on my back and can play ball,” Greenberg said.
“Guys get released, guys get hurt. If you’re on the team, you have the chance. My goal is to get into some big league games in spring training so I can show Buck and the coaching staff what I can bring to a ballclub, and if the team has a need during the season, I’ll be ready.”