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Greenberg writhes on the ground after getting beaned in 2005.
Some people would have called it quits. But Greenberg hadn’t been at his best in 2010. After the season, he had rotator cuff surgery. As he began the 2011 season, still with the Bluefish, he told himself that this was it. This was the year.
“I just turned 30,” he says. “It’s not like I’m 35 or 36.”
The season started well.
In his first game, against the Long Island Ducks, Greenberg stepped to the plate in the eighth inning to face the same man who hit him in the head in 2005: Valerio de los Santos. In the intervening six years, de los Santos had seen his own career derailed by the injury to Greenberg. Ever since that night, he’d been incapable of throwing inside to batters. He’d lost a crucial weapon, and hitters were taking advantage. Like Greenberg, though, he was trying to find his way back.
The first pitch was a cutter that seemed to be aimed at Greenberg’s body. He didn’t flinch. He watched it curve over the plate for a strike. He watched two more pitches go by before seeing one he liked. He swung and lined it for a single.
“Biggest hit of my life,” he says, with a note of regret in his voice, because, of course, there should have been bigger ones.
Greenberg went two for four that night and stayed hot for the first part of the season. He was spraying hits around the field, running well. He was batting leadoff for the Bluefish and stealing a lot of bases. He felt like his troubles were finally behind him.
“It brought the whole thing full circle,” he says.
But by the end of July, his average was back down around .270. When we spoke, he said he had made some adjustments to his swing, and he was certain that his numbers would improve. “Things are clicking right now,” he told me.
A month later, his average had not improved.
How long would he keep chasing the dream? It’s a question all of us ask at some point in our lives, assuming we’re fortunate enough to have dreams. But baseball players chase their dreams in front of a paying audience that boos when they fail. And most of them fail.
“You know, we don’t make a lot of money [$2,200 a month for five months out of each year],” Greenberg says, “and I just got married. So you can imagine the conversations my wife, Lindsay, and I have. The thing is, I don’t want to give this game up for anything other than a lack of desire or because I can’t perform at the level I want to. I’m not going to give it up for money. I’m willing to give it two or three more years if I feel good. I eat right. I take care of myself. I don’t feel any older than I did when I was 21.”
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Photograph: Steve Mitchell/AP