“'Excited' doesn’t even begin to explain it,” said Greenberg, who hit .275 in 74 games for the Diamond Jaxx. “It’s just a dream come true. It’s the opportunity we’ve been waiting for our whole lives. Now it’s time to go out and make the most of it.”
The Jaxx were slated to wrap up a four-game series with the Tennessee Smokies in Sevierville, Tenn. on Thursday. The game was postponed due to rain, and instead of joining their teammates on the team bus as it departed from the eastern part of the state, Greenberg and Murton were told to stay behind at the team hotel.
“We had both heard we might be going up to Iowa,” Greenberg said. “The big leagues weren’t even discussed at first. When (Jaxx manager) Bobby Dickerson called, I can certainly say that I was surprised.”
Meanwhile, Murton was slated to join his fellow Southern League all-stars in Mobile, Ala., beginning Tuesday. That might have to be put on hold.
“I’m definitely excited,” said Murton, who was hitting .342 at West Tenn.
“This is obviously what every player dreams of. It's your ultimate goal. I think we both realize that we’re very grateful for the opportunity to go to Chicago. To not only be thankful, which we are, but to go there knowing we can do something worthy is incredible.”
Shortly after learning of their call-ups, both Greenberg and Murton sat together in their hotel room watching "Baseball Tonight" to catch up on what was being said by ESPN guru Peter Gammons.
Greenberg was heard cheering and laughing aloud with the TV on in the background. Murton, in his usual laid-back, peaceful state of mind, remained jubilant, yet relaxed.
“Everyone knows Peter Gammons is a well-respected man in the baseball community,” the former Red Sox farmhand and 2003 first round draft pick said. “I don’t know if we can put into words right now how we really feel. We are just so blessed.”
The promotion didn’t come without a hint of affection on Greenberg's end, either. The University of North Carolina alumnus and 2002 Cubs draft pick was saddened to hear that friend and fellow outfielder Corey Patterson had been demoted from Chicago to Triple-A Iowa.
In conjunction with the promotions of Greenberg and Murton, the Cubs sent Patterson and Jason Dubois both to Iowa. Patterson was suffering through the worst year of his major league career with a .232 batting average and a scanty .270 on-base percentage through his first 72 games. He got off to a strong start in the first few weeks of the season, but began to taper off by early May.
After May 30 at Los Angeles, when the Cubs were playing their best ball of the year, Patterson’s average and on-base percentage kept descending. Manager Dusty Baker tried batting him further down in the lineup. Now, Patterson will return to the minor leagues for the first time since his 2001 season at Triple-A, when he batted .253 in over 80 games.
Meanwhile, Dubois came into the year with plenty of hype and eventually earned a chance to prove himself in the Cubs’ everyday outfield. But he, too, had been struggling recently after batting only .224 in May and just three points higher in June. (Dubois had not hit above the .300 mark since May 7.)
“Corey is a great, great person,” said Greenberg, who became friends with Patterson out in Mesa during Spring Training. “I got to know him a lot this spring and he is just loaded with talent. Unfortunately, he went through some struggles this year, but he’s going to be fine. He has so much ability, and with the work ethic he has, he’ll be a great major leaguer. If going back to the minors is what it takes to straighten some things out, that’s what he has to do. He’s got too much ability to be in the minors very long. He’ll be a great major leaguer.”
As for Greenberg himself, he and Murton will join the Cubs in Miami beginning Friday for the team’s scheduled three-game series with the Marlins. The Cubs hope to break their 0-for-July mark when they send Carlos Zambrano to the mound in the series opener.
But it won’t be easy (as if … ).
Zambrano will be facing left-hander and National League all-star Dontrelle Willis, who is 13-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 17 starts during the first half. He leads the league in wins, complete games (5) and is second only to Roger Clemens in ERA.
“All I need to do is go out and play,” Greenberg said. “For me, I just have to get on base, score some runs and be a spark plug. I want to play the game hard every day. We’re just going to have fun and hopefully help the team win some games.”
Murton echoed those sentiments.
“It’s very surreal,” he said, “but it will all sink in eventually. We’re both thrilled to death and really excited. We have to make sure we go there with the right mindset, and that is to help the team win.”
Neither player is currently aware of what his role with the big league club will be, how long it will last, or whether or not he will make an immediate impact in the Cubs’ everyday lineup.
Greenberg is well-known for getting on base. Entering the 2005 season, he had a career .384 OBP, while Murton is regarded as having one of the most solid swings in all of minor league baseball.
Greenberg is fast and can force his way on base by laying down timely bunts. Murton has been running more on the bases this season and is having a career year in just his second full season on the professional circuit.
“I think both of us are going there with the realization that we’re only there to help the Cubs win,” Murton said. “We’re the ballplayers; they’re the managers, and so forth. Whether we’re starting or coming in off the bench, I know ultimately both of our goals is to help the club win. If we get a chance to start, that’d be great. If we don’t, it’s still important to accept our role.”
Murton plans to have his family tape Sunday’s WGN-televised first-half finale at Pro Player Stadium.
As for Greenberg, he has a message for the Cub nation.
“The only thing I can tell you all is that we’re going to go out and do everything we can to help this team,” said the ex-Tar Heel and ninth round pick. “That’s what this group of guys I’ve been playing with these past two years is all about. I was used to winning in high school and in college, and now in the pros, too.
“To have an opportunity to play for the city of Chicago, it’s just going to be great to be a part of it all.”