WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The voice mail stayed on Adam Greenberg’s phone for 10 years. Whenever he needed a pick-me-up or a reminder to keep going, he’d listen to it. The voice belonged to Dusty Baker and the message was full of inspiration. The first time he heard it, Greenberg cried.
The emotions were much more upbeat Sunday when Greenberg, who was in Astros camp with his job as national director of sales for Chandler Bat Company, popped into Baker’s office at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches to say hello. It was the first time they had seen each other in about six years, though they talk more often than that. The hug they shared was genuine.
“Dusty is one of the greatest people I've ever met on or off the field, and to see him back in uniform, it’s where he should be,” Greenberg said. “To come into a team like the Astros with everything that’s gone on, there’s no person that I know that could fill this role better than him. He’s just a genuine human being that knows the game as well as anyone and cares about people. It’s so good to see him there.”
Greenberg’s respect for Baker was born out of dark circumstances. Baker was managing the Cubs when Greenberg was called up from Double-A to make his Major League debut on July 9, 2005, in Miami. He pinch-hit against the Marlins in the ninth inning and was struck in the back of the head by a 92-mph fastball from Valerio De Los Santos on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues.
Greenberg sustained a mild concussion and was removed from the game, though the medical problems were just starting. He suffered positional vertigo for 2 1/2 years and battled vision problems and depression. He eventually asked for his release from the Cubs and, years later, had one more at-bat in the Majors with the Marlins in 2012 that was the result of an online petition. He was struck out on three pitches by R.A. Dickey, but that didn’t matter. Greenberg made it back to the big leagues.
A couple of years following the incident, in 2007, Baker got a letter from a fan requesting a baseball card be signed. In the letter, the person told Baker that Greenberg had been released by the Royals and his baseball career was in jeopardy. Baker tracked down Greenberg and left him the voice mail that served as his motivation for a post-baseball life.
“It was so genuine and from the heart,” Greenberg said. “It put me in tears the first time, but it was the motivation and inspiration I needed to get up and keep going. And since then, he’s been somebody that’s been near and dear to me. I wrote a book called ‘Get Up: The Art of Perseverance’ and Dusty has almost a whole chapter in it about [our] relationship and what he means. He’s welcomed me into his home. He’s been someone who’s bigger than baseball for me.”
Greenberg, 39, overcame his medical issues and started a nutrition company that he ran for 10 years before selling it. He ran for state senate last year in Connecticut and is enjoying being back in the game working for Chandler, which is owned by Mets outfielder Yoenis Céspedes. Greenberg also serves as a baseball analyst on the ACC Network.
“Just being back around the clubhouse and the players and everything, it’s been fun for me,” he said. “When they go hit with the bats they come back and say, ‘I never heard a sound like this. This is amazing.’ It feels good. You’re becoming a part of the game. Being on the other side is fun. I’m enjoying it.”
Baker said he will always remember Greenberg’s parents crying after he was helped off the field in what should have been the greatest moment of his life. Baker said it was one of the saddest moments of his career, but seeing Greenberg now brings joy.
“You see guys change, but he’s the same young, enthusiastic kid that he always was. But now he’s a man,” Baker said. “You’re not supposed to have favorites, but he’s one of mine.”