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Greenberg reminds himself that his initial path to the major leagues was hardly predictable. Back in 2002, he was riding the bench at one of the lowest levels in the minors, his batting average in the doldrums. For logistical reasons having nothing to do with talent, he got promoted to play for the Cubs’ Class A minor-league team in Daytona, where he went on a tear at the right time. He hit for the cycle on a day when scouts and team officials happened to be in the stands. Suddenly he was on the radar.
A few years later, in 2005, when the Cubs were stuck in an eight-game losing streak, they summoned Greenberg to Chicago, hoping his speed and high-energy approach to the game might lend a spark.
Who’s to say it can’t happen again?
He believed then and believes now that he’s got big-league talent. That’s what keeps most minor-leaguers going. But for Greenberg there’s something more.
“Not having the opportunity to succeed or fail, that’s been burning inside me,” he says. “That’s been the most difficult thing of all.”
I asked him if he’d been following the Cubs this year.
He said yes.
“Pretty awful, aren’t they?” I asked.
Greenberg chuckled but said he hadn’t really been following closely.
I told him I thought the Cubs should give him another chance. Even if there are better prospects out there, they should put him on the big-league roster again and give him the chance he never had. In a lost season in which the team often seemed to play without passion, Greenberg’s story might remind some of the men in the clubhouse just how fortunate they have been.
I submitted the idea to the Cubs and asked to speak to Jim Hendry, the general manager. He declined to comment. (Hendry has since been fired.)
I asked Greenberg if he would mind coming back under such conditions, knowing that some people would view it as a publicity stunt.
“I’m trying to do anything to get one more shot,” he said. “There’s no quit in what I do.”
In W. P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe, on which Field of Dreams was based, Moonlight Graham, as an old man, says he still yearns for that chance to hit, “to squint my eyes when the sky is so blue it hurts to look at it, and to feel the tingle that runs up your arms when you connect dead-on. . . . That’s what I wish.”
Greenberg is far from an old man, but his wish is much the same: “Getting in the box,” he says, “just getting in there and looking at the pitcher, browsing around, looking at the three tiers of the stadium, whatever stadium it is, digging in . . . and knowing it’s my time again.
“That’s what I want.”
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