Adam Greenberg’s MLB stats line will forever mention : 2 games ; 1AB ; 1SO ; 1HBP. Hit in the head on the first pitch he ever saw in his debut with the Chicago Cubs in 2005 and badly injured, the now-retired outfielder has a story to tell. Not only his baseball story, but the story of someone who faced challenges and battled for his well-being. His inspiring message is now a book – Get up, The Art of perseverance – in which he claims that anyone can get through tough times. He kindly answered exclusive questions for The Strike Out. (Lire en Français)
The Strike Out : Adam, why did you decide to write a book ?
Adam Greenberg : I really wanted to get a message across of overcoming obstacles and perseverance. Especially with the way that society is going, all the negative stuff around the world, I thought it was important to get that message of continuing to get up, continuing to persevere, continuing just to do good and be a good person and be there for others to help them through tough times. Get that message not just here but internationally and hope that I can be an inspiration to a lot of people.
TSO : You don’t see it as a baseball book… It’s more than that, right ?
A.G : The title is « Get up » and if you think about it : in life everyone will have something that they need to get up from. Yes, there’s a lot of baseball in it, it’s a part of who I am, what I’m all about… But if you really look at it, you’re either down and needing help to get up or you’re overlooking somebody who needs some help to get up. And as human beings, in our DNA, that’s what we were designed to do, to always be getting up and persevering, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. So, it’s an important message and that is far bigger than just a baseball story.
TSO : You didn’t want to write about your baseball story ?
A.G : I never thought I wanted to write a book growing up, that was never something I’ve ever given any thought to at all. But after what happened and getting called back up, and in the years that followed, I was really passionate about getting my message out there to a larger audience. The speaking engagements I’ve done up until this point whether it’s to corporations, youth groups, religious organizations, sports teams, and being able to put it down on paper and really dive deeper, to be able to share my message with more people was the intent. So, as I said, it never started as « I want to write a book », it turned into, I really feel the need and desire to write one down.
TSO : How do you refer to your injury ?
A.G : It’s just a life experience. I don’t even say it’s a baseball accident, it’s just part of my life. It’s something that happened to me that I can now speak on and once again be able to have it relate to any one of a million other different things : somebody got knocked down from something, it could have been physical, emotional, medical, business or personal, anything… so it’s just part of my life, it’s not a baseball accident per se.
TSO : Do you believe in destiny ?
A.G : In some regards yes, I wouldn’t rule out the term. I certainly think that things do happen for a reason. But the important thing is how you’re going to respond. When I got hit, not long after, I realized it was the best experience of my life and the worst thing, at the same time. Years later I’m able to look at it and say it was the best thing at that time and also now. Getting hit certainly has turned out to be a little bit of destiny I guess but it’s just the pathway my life was supposed to go down.
TSO : In a way, your dream was taken from you with the injury. How did you respond ? How did you keep going ?
A.G : I try to make clear : I did accomplish my goal. I had success, I made it to the Major League but it wasn’t the way I wanted it to be and I expected. But the journey in life is really the thing you’re supposed to enjoy the most… and I enjoyed it so much at the time, working, training and trying to get to that pinnacle, no matter what happens. When you get to the top, when you hit your goal, life continues to go. It’s what you do after that, and how do you continue to set big goals, new highs, doing little things everyday to put yourself in a position to be happy. Happiness is really the foundation of this story, about getting up, persevering to be happy. I thought I was going to be a baseball player my whole life and no matter what anyone told me. You can be successful whatever you do. That was great I was a baseball player, now my life has shifted, owning a nutrition company, having a book out, doing public speaking, being a father and a husband… all these things is not necessarily what I thought my path was going to be.
TSO : Did you ever think this injury meant the end of your career ?
A.G : No, never did I think that was going to be it. From the time that I was on the ground, the training staff was asking me if I was ok. The third question asked was « Where were you two days ago ? ». I said I was in the Minor Leagues and I’m not going back. There was never a doubt in my mind what my ultimate goal was.
TSO : After your injury, you had to head back to the Minors…
The most difficult thing wasn’t so much going back to the Minors, although that was not what I wanted to be doing. The most challenging part was that I was dealing with vertigo, vision issues. Fighting my health to try to perform at a level which I was accustomed to playing, that was the challenge. The baseball game is based on failure as a hitter, and going through the personal failures was definitely a challenge so I just tried to do the best that I could, day in and day out.
TSO : Then you played in the Independent League [note : with the Bridgeport Bluefish in the Atlantic League], how was it different from the Minors ?
A.G : It is different because you don’t have that immediate expecting of a call. You’re not in an organization where you know who’s there, you know who’s looking, you know where you can go next. In the Minors, you’re kind of playing in front of all 30 teams all the time, hoping that somebody there, you catch their attention and they want to bring you in. In the Independent League, there’s no health insurance, there’s limited pay… The league was great and the diversity of the players from the Major League to first year professional player. It was highly competitive. Definitely the challenge is that you have to face mentally that you’re not in an affiliated club, there no chance of getting called up.
TSO : And you had to face the pitcher that hurt you back in 2005, Valerio de los Santos !
A.G : 2011 I believe… It was the first game, opening night of the season. He was playing for the Long Island Ducks and I was playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish. It was the eighth inning of the game, he came in, I was facing him and I ended up getting a base hit. That was the most amazing at-bat of my life, to that point, no matter what else had been going on. That single was basically my Major League at-bat. The focus was never going to be a problem because there was a lot riding on it, I knew during the offseason that I was gonna be facing him probably opening night, so I took it literally as « he’s not getting me out, I’m going to get on base, I’m going to get a hit » and I dug in there as if it was Game 7 of the World Series, bases loaded, two outs and it’s a tie game and I get on base and we win the World Series, that how I approached that at-bat.
TSO : Do you consider your at-bat with the Miami Marlins a second chance ? [The Marlins offered him a one-day contract in 2012 after an online petition pleading for an official at-bat spread around the country.]
A.G : In some regards yes… But I think my second chance was when the Dodgers signed me to a contract [after the Cubs released him, he signed Minor League contracts with several teams], when the Royals signed me to a contract, then the Bridgeport team, then the Angels, and then the Reds and then back to the Bridgeport team and of course Team Israel… For me, life is never about just you got one opportunity. I think everyday and every step that I took and every time I went on to the field and practiced and trained… those are the things that you don’t necessarily see but it looks like that truly was the second chance, that was just part of the process. I’m grateful for all the second chances that I got to get on the field, to put on a uniform, cleats and get on that batter box.
TSO : Was it a closure for you to face a pitcher once again in the Majors ?
A.G : I wouldn’t call that the closure. The experience, getting back, was my mission. The closure was when I went to the Baltimore Orioles [in 2013]. I hit .355 with a .413 on base percentage. I kept my stats that spring because I wanted to prove to myself I could still be playing at that level. Once I did that and got released because they had too many outfielders and I was offered a coaching job because I had the Major League at-bat the year before and because I knew I gave my heart and soul, my bank account, my life to the game, I knew at that point that was my closure that I needed.
TSO : Can you tell us about your experience with Team Israel in 2013 for the World Baseball Qualifier?
A.G : That experience was amazing. I get to play on the greatest baseball team ever assembled up until that point. We were representing a country that only had one baseball field in the entire country. I think bigger than that though there was this story of : it was not just a bunch of Jewish kids playing baseball, trying to win… The message was trying to create peace through sport. And I think this is the strongest message you can have. The Olympics have brought countries together. When you get on the playing field, you have sportsmanship and you forget all the hate, the disputes, all the turmoil and you just compete. And when the competition is over, you’re sharing that. There’s a mutual level of respect and I think that was the coolest part. They were so passionate wanting to build that game of baseball in Israel, so being a part of that was amazing.
TSO : Did you watch this year WBC and Team Israel ?
A.G : I watch every game that I could. I was cheering for those guys. It was pretty remarkable to see what they were able to do. They felt a little short but it was a monumental success just getting a team out there in the Classic.
TSO : Do you watch baseball at all ?
A.G : I do. Not as much as I used to. A lot has to do with time and focus on what I’m trying to build in my life. I’m still keeping tabs on the game and individual players. I still teach, I help out with local teams here when they ask for me to come and speak or do a clinic. I put a batting cage in my house where I teach kids all the time when they come over. I just keep my mind sharp because I have so much knowledge of the game, love and passion. I want to be able to share that. But I certainly have not been watching as much as I used to.
TSO : Do you have any regrets about your baseball career ?
A.G : No, I really don’t have any regret. Looking back though I would say after my shoulder injury in 2009, at that point I really didn’t do what I should have done and that’s the only regret. I never went back to Florida and work with my hitting coach and I think that’s the one thing because I don’t ever recover in the batter’s box to the level I was expecting to be at. That was something that I could have done. I did go down there right before Team Israel and before the AB with the Marlins and that prepared me into the season with the Orioles for spring training.
TSO : How did you feel watching the Cubs win the World Series last year ?
A.G : That’s a good question and I should have put that in the book ! It was a 100% bittersweet… I mean, the Cubs’ fans, the history, the players, the organization and the city of Chicago, I was so happy for them and they deserved it, they earned it after all these years. The bittersweet part certainly was there though : I wanted to be a part of that, I wanted to be sharing that, that’s why I play the game, that’s why I was so excited to get called up… so watching them celebrate and knowing that I was there even for such a short period of time, I was happy for them but deep deep down I was a little just, « man I wanted that also ».
TSO : You now own a nutrition company, what is it exactly ?
A.G : It’s called « Lurong living ». We also have a foundation with the purpose of educating people on nutrition to better their life. We control so much in our life with the food and the choices we put in our body. My mission is to make people understand that there is more in own our control, offer the tool to know what to put in, what not to put in, and why, so they have a greater impact on the people around, on their family, their friends and living a longer, healthier and happier life. We’ve impacted close to 100 000 lives so far since 2012 and that continues to grow so I’m very very very proud of what we’ve accomplished.
TSO : You went to college in North Carolina. How was it to play baseballthere because we know it’s a basketball temple ? [The Tar Heels won the 2017 NCAA Basketball Tournament].
A.G : When I was there baseball was popular but basketball obviously is the number one sport, no question, nothing can come close to competing with that… But over the last bunch of years, we’ve started getting more attention and more momentum : they upgraded the stadium, they put up a new scoreboard… It is a first-rated place to play and the fans have grown tremendously. They are perennial top-seed every year now, they went to the College World Series [in 2006 and 2007]. It’s a great baseball school, it’s a great school, great people, so I have nothing but great things to say about this University.
TSO : I read that you played soccer in high school, is that right ?
A.G : Absolutely ! I was probably a better soccer player in high school than a baseball player. My team was very very good. We had a tremendous soccer program, we were top-shape, we trained with double or triple sessions all the time. But baseball was more my passion. Maybe if I was in Europe playing soccer, I would have had the inspiration to play professionally. But here in the US, when I was growing up, we didn’t have MLS. Soccer was not as big as it is today. You guys grow up watching soccer, here I grew up watching baseball… so I think I had that affinity. I love the game, I love to play, I still do… I probably kick a soccerball around more than I do swing a baseball bat right now. I watch when it’s on TV… I love watching them play, the touch they have on the ball, the way they are moving around, the speed which they play… I just love it, no matter who’s playing.
Adam Greenberg’s book – Get up, The Art of perseverance (Mckenzie Daniels) – is available in France on amazon.fr.