11/17/2004 1:07 PM ET
Greenberg hankers for leadoff job
Cubs prospect strives to overcome odds in minors
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Baseball fans take one look at Cubs outfield prospect Adam Greenberg's last name and always ask him the same question:
|Speedy Cubs prospect Adam Greenberg has the game of a traditional leadoff hitter. (Melissa Wintemute)
"Was Hank Greenberg your grandfather?"
Greenberg will reply "yes," and then he'll pause before adding, "But not the one you're looking for."
Adam Greenberg's grandfather was indeed Hank Greenberg -- Abraham Hank Greenberg, no relation to the Hall of Fame slugger. The young Greenberg has enjoyed the attention his last name has brought him and each time he rises to a new level in the Cubs system, he goes through a new round of questions.
But he's used to that. After growing up in Connecticut, going to Friday night services regularly, celebrating holidays, getting into the Wednesday and Sunday Hebrew school routine and being bar mitzvahed (four of the five kids in the Greenberg family have been bar/bat mitzvahed, with No. 5 coming of age soon), Greenberg left that insular Jewish community to attend the University of North Carolina.
"There's just not very many Jewish people down there," Greenberg said. "Ninety percent of the team had never met a Jewish person. People would want to talk to me about it. Yes, comments would be made, but uneducated people are going to make uneducated comments. But it was never a detriment."
Greenberg said it was more difficult overcoming the stigma that a player who's 5-foot-9 is too small to play baseball at a higher level. Yet he starred with the Tar Heels and was drafted in the ninth round of the 2002 First-year Player Draft by the Cubs. He's had an up-and-down career so far, including spending parts of three seasons at one level with Daytona in the Florida State League.
"I thought I'd put up the numbers to get moved up to Double-A this past year," Greenberg said. "They decided to send me back to Daytona. It was part of my third season in the same league. You never want to spend more than one year in the same league. That was tough to go through mentally. You have to clear that out and realize it's time to play ball."
Greenberg did just that. After hitting .291 in 91 games with Daytona, Greenberg finally got promoted to Double-A West Tennessee. He hit a respectable .277 there in 32 games before getting bumped up to Triple-A Iowa for that team's playoffs. Despite the trials and tribulations, he ended up just where he hoped to be at the start of the season: on the brink of competing for a big league job.
He's preparing for that chance here in the Arizona Fall League and has certainly opened some eyes. Greenberg has hit .328 and stolen four bases in 67 at-bats with the Mesa Solar Sox. And he thinks he has a skill set as a leadoff hitter that could fit in exactly with what the parent club needs.
"They led the league in home runs, but were near the bottom in on-base percentage (11th in the NL)," said Greenberg, who has a career OBP of .384. "Keep putting more people on base and keep hitting home runs, you do the math, you're going to score more runs. If they need a leadoff hitter, that's what I bring to the table. I have to believe that."
If it doesn't happen next spring, Greenberg remains confident that it will happen sooner rather than later. He hopes it will be with the Cubs, but understands the reality of the game enough to know that it could very well be with another organization.
"If I said my expectations weren't to make it to the big leagues, I'd be lying to you," said Greenberg, who'll be 24 in February. "I planned on and expect to make it there, because I'm going to do everything I can to get there. And not just get there, but stay there. I'll be ready if and when the opportunity comes. If the Cubs decide they want or need me, that'd be great. If not, there are 29 other clubs who might be interested."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.