Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The last highlight of a lost season

When baseball fans cheer a strikeout, it's usually a pitcher on their team that puts the "K" on the board. Tuesday night was an exception.

The Miami Marlins had tried to duplicate the success of the NBA's Heat and form a super-team to break the Philadelphia Phillies' stranglehold on the National League East, but despite the talent lured to South Beach, including mercurial manager (and former Marlins player & coach) Ozzie Guillen, despite owner Jeffrey Loria breaking the bank, the Marlins never quite got out of the blocks the way they wanted to. On Tuesday, Loria gave a 1-day contract to a player whose career was nearly derailed permanently seven years ago. Ironically, Adam Greenberg, who was a rookie with the Chicago Cubs at the time, was struck by a pitch in a game against----wait for it---the Marlins. Loria, in a show of humanitarian compassion, reached out to Greenberg and gave him the opportunity to fully realize his dream. Greenberg had not played anywhere this season, even in the minors, and otherwise was playing for Israel's national team in a qualifying tournament for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

So, the good news was that Greenberg was back in the majors. The bad news? He would face Cy Young Award candidate R. A. Dickey of the New York Mets. Prior to the game, on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption, co-host Tony Kornheiser predicted that Greenberg would strike out against the knuckleball specialist. In the 6th inning, Greenberg was sent up to bat for Bryan Peterson, and got a loud ovation from the fans in Miami. Three pitches later, he received another ovation as he walked away, having whiffed. Greenberg received hugs and high fives from his teammates du jour. In the 7th, Greenberg was replaced on defense by Scott Cousins, but the feel-good story of the night had been told.

Up next for Greenberg, then, would be the WBC, should Israel make it into the tournament next year. The 2009 tournament introduced American audiences to Japan's Yu Darvish, now with the Texas Rangers. In that same tournament, Pedro Martinez proved he was healthy enough to pitch, and signed at mid-season with Philadelphia, but has not toed the rubber on a major league hill since. Even if Israel doesn't make it, surely whomever is in charge of the American team can find a spot for Greenberg if he impresses enough in the qualifiers. After all, every Cinderella story deserves a happy ending.

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