Sports is appealing to the masses because of its sentimentality, and no sport is more proud of its schmaltz than the one I have adopted as my favorite — baseball.
I was reminded of this fact on Tuesday when Zac wanted to watch the Miami Marlins game.
This was an odd request for several reasons.
First, our TV usually would have been tuned to “N.C.I.S.” during that time. Secondly, we’re not Marlins fans.
Last but not least, Zac didn’t really care about the outcome of the game. He was only interested in one at-bat.
This was a pretty special at-bat, though.
In 2005, a young Chicago Cubs outfielder named Adam Greenberg was hit in the head by a 92-mile-per-hour fastball from Valerio de los Santos of the then-Florida Marlins.
It was Greenberg’s first and only time in a Major League batter’s box. He suffered a concussion and experienced side effects such as vertigo and headaches for years.
His career was over. To add insult to injury, it wasn’t even recorded.
Because Greenberg had been hit by a pitch, the rules of baseball required that it go down in the history books as a plate appearance instead of an official at-bat.
Some might think, “What’s the difference?” But let’s think about this for a second.
A lot of guys dream about making it to the majors. However, only a few ever do, and most of those never become household names.
Nobody buys a jersey with their name on the back of it or collects their baseball card because their numbers just aren’t impressive enough.
It doesn’t matter that they work just as hard as the superstars or how many years they spent bouncing from city to city playing for peanuts.
If their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is over quicker than they expected, all they get to walk away with are their aches and pains, their memories and their stats.
So it’s kind of a big deal that Greenberg was denied his Major League at-bat.
By all accounts, he took it like a man. He continued to play baseball in other leagues and started his own business.
However, a film director heard about Greenberg’s story recently and started a movement to get him his one at-bat.
The Marlins brass were happy to oblige, not only because one of their former pitchers threw the baseball that crushed Greenberg’s boyhood dream but also because their overhyped team played horribly this year.
The Marlins signed Greenberg to a one-day contract, and he donated his salary to the Sports Legacy Institute, which supports the study, treatment and prevention of brain trauma in athletes.
The moment that Greenberg waited seven long years for came in the bottom of the sixth inning. He walked up to the plate as Aerosmith’s “Dream On” blared throughout the stadium.
When Hollywood tells this story, as I’m certain it eventually will, the movie will probably end with Greenberg blasting one out of the Marlins’ fancy new stadium.
But here in the real world, Greenberg faced New York Mets’ star pitcher R.A. Dickey, who had promised to pitch him like the Major Leaguer that he has proven himself to be.
Greenberg took the first strike and whiffed on the next two. Just like that, it was time to take his place among his temporary teammates in the dugout.
I wrote last week that I’m pessimistic by nature. I can even be accused of being downright cynical at times.
But the flip side of my personality is that I frequently find myself seeking inspiration from the craziest things.
Thankfully, there are still a few more weeks of baseball left.