The History of Baseball in Greece

 

By Tom Mazarakis

January, 2007

 

 

 

            Baseball in Greece has only recently gained a reasonable amount of attention and interest and this is due to the fact that Greece won the honor of hosting the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.  As the organizing nation, Greece was given the opportunity to field a representative Olympic baseball team for the games.  At this point, I would like to mention that it should be noted that the organizing country does not automatically get a free ride for all team sports, which is a commonly held misconception.  It is the corresponding International Federation, for each sport, who determines which countries will participate in the Olympic Games.  The International Olympic committee stipulates how many teams will participate in the competition and the corresponding sport’s federation determines which countries will participate.  For baseball, the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) had no intention of inviting a team from Greece.  Their argument was simple and reasonable:  in 1997 Greece had no baseball whatsoever and there was no hope that the country could ever build a Greek team that could possibly compete at the Olympics level within less than 7 years. 

But, they were wrong.  How Greece did what anyone who knows anything about baseball would have told you was impossible is a story worth telling.  It is worth the effort to tell because it is a story that reflects the true nature of Greeks whose modern descendants continue the traditions and values and are worthy heirs to the legacy of their ancient forefathers. 

 

 

The beginnings:

 

            Baseball in Greece can find it’s beginnings across the Atlantic in the home of baseball, America.  It was from the offspring of the first wave of Greek immigrants who traveled to the United States from 1900 to 1930 from which the first Greek baseball players evolved.  They went to the new world in order to make better lives and futures for themselves and for their families.  Most of these pioneering Greeks embraced their new country and adapted their new lives accordingly.  Thus baseball, being a truly “American” sport, became a favorite amongst the early Greek-Americans.  Countless Greeks have played the sport of baseball over the last 70 years, but only a few made it to the Majors.  The following list includes most of them.

 

 

Alex KampourisAlex was born in Sacramento, California in 1912 and is probably the first Greek to play big league baseball.  He made his Major League debut in 1934 playing for the Cincinnati Reds at short and at second until 1938 when he was traded to the New York Giants.  He was later traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1941 and ended his career in 1943 with the Washington Senators.

 

Greek George(Born Charles Peter George) Charles was born in Waycross, Georgia in 1912.  He joined the Cleveland Indians in 1935 and played with them until 1936.  The Brooklyn Dodgers picked him up in 1938 and he played on the Chicago Cubs in 1941.  He ended his career on the Philadelphia Athletics in 1945.

 

Alex CampanisAl is probably the only Greek to have played Major League Baseball who was born in Greece.  He was born on the Greek island of Kos in 1916 and played only 7 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943 at second base before volunteering to fight in WWII with the U.S. Navy.  He stayed with the Dodger organization for the rest of his career as a minor league manager, then as a scout and eventually as a vice president in charge of player personnel.  He was a great man who was instrumental towards ending prejudice in baseball.  He was Jackie Robinson’s teammate on the Montreal Royals in 1946 and helped many black players advance to the majors.

 

Gus NiarhosGus was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1920.  He played for 9 Major League seasons as a catcher from 1946 to 1955.  He started his career playing for the New York Yankees and by 1955 had played for the Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, and for the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

Gus Keriazakos(Born Constantine Nicholas Keriazakos) Gus was born in West Orange, New Jersey in 1931.  He made his Major league debut in 1950 at the relatively young age of 19 when he played for the Chicago White Sox in one game.  He pitched only 2.1 innings giving up 7 hits, 5 walks, and 5 earned runs.  He was sent down to the minors and returned to the Major Leagues in 1954 with the Washington Senators only to end is ML career with the Athletics in 1955.

 

Billy Loes(Born William Loes) Billy was born in Long Island City, New York in 1929 and pitched in 11 Major League seasons which started in 1950 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and ended in 1961 with the San Francisco Giants.  Renowned for his wacky reasoning, Billy advised against becoming a 20 game winner, because “If you win 20 games, they expect you to do it every year.”  Loes never did win 20, but was 50 – 25 over four seasons in Brooklyn. (FK)

 

Gus TriandosGus was born in San Francisco, California in 1930.  He played for 13 Major league seasons as a catcher from 1953 to 1965.  He started his Major League career playing for the New York Yankees and by 1965 he had played for Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, and for Houston.

 

Harry Agganis(Born Aristotle George Agganis) Harry, who was known as “The Golden Greek” in his hometown, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1929.  He was the star athlete of his high school and of Boston College where he played baseball, basketball, and football equally well.  He denied a contract with the Cleveland Browns as their number one draft pick in 1952 only to sign a Major League contract with the Boston Red Sox in 1953.  He played 1st base for the Boston Red Sox in 1954 and part of 1955.  His career would have been an amazing one and he might possibly have been the greatest Greek-American baseball player of all time if tragedy didn’t strike him down in his prime.  He died in 1955 of a “massive pulmonary embolism” while being hospitalized after complaints of chest pains.

Agganis Arena at Boston University is named in his honor.

 

Alex Grammas(Born Alexander Peter Grammas) Alex was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1927.  He started his Major League career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954 at short where his fielding was amazing but his hitting was less than great.  He also played for the Cincinnati Reds and ended his career in 1963 with the Chicago Cubs.  He managed the Pirates for the last 5 games of the 1969 season and also managed the Milwaukee Brewers in 1976 and 1977.

 

Chris Kitsos(Born Christopher Anestos Kitsos).  Chris was born in New York City, New York in 1928.  He had the shortest Major League career in history.  He played in only one inning of one game for the Chicago Cubs on April 21st, 1954 during which he had no official at bats. 

 

Mike Baxes(Born Michael Baxes)  Mike was born in San Francisco, California in 1930 and played at short and at second for the Kansas City Athletics in 1956 and in 1958.

 

Jim Baxes(Born Dimitrios S. Baxes) Jim was born in San Francisco, California in 1928.   Both he and his younger brother Mike played in the Majors.  Jim played for the LA Dodgers and for the Cleveland Indians both during the 1959 season.

Jim played at both second and third and finished his one and only season with a .246 batting average and 69 hits (17 of which were homeruns).

 

 1964 Topps baseball card #45

1964 Topps baseball card #45

A control specialist, Pappas pitched in 520 games, starting 465, with 209 wins, 164 losses, 43 shutouts, 1728 strikeouts and a 3.40 ERA in 3186.0 innings pitched.

Milt Pappas:  (Born Miltiades Stergios Papastergios) Nicknamed “Gimpy”, Milt was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1939.  He made his Major League debut in 1957 with the Baltimore Orioles and is to date probably the best Greek-American pitcher of all time.  He was an outstanding talent and was signed right out of high school.  He pitched only 3 games in the minors before being called up by the Orioles to play in the big league.  He was only 18 years old when he faced one of baseball's greatest hitters, Ted Williams for the first time.  Williams worked the count to 3 - 2 when Milt struck him out looking.  During his 17 year career in the majors, he collected 209 wins with a life time ERA of only 3.40.  He also has a no hitter to his credit while pitching for the Chicago Cubs in a game at Wrigley Field against the San Diego Padres on September 2, 1972.  Milt had retired 26 consecutive batters and was one out away from a perfect game when pinch hitter Larry Stahl came to the plate.  Milt's first 2 pitches to Stahl were strikes and he was now only 1 strike away from making history.  Note that up until that point there were only 7 perfect games on the record books during the entire 20th century.  Milt then threw 4 perfect sliders in a row and home plate umpire Bruce Froemming called all 4 pitches balls, thus ruining Milt's perfect game.  He looked at the ump in disbelief and then showered him with every name he could think of in both English and in Greek.  He got the next batter to pop out in order to end the game and at least save the no-hitter.  On April 11, 2003 Milt gave Bruce Amspacher an interview that is worth reading.  He was a truly great baseball player who certainly belongs in the Hall of Fame.

 

John Tsitouris(Born John Philip Tsitouris) John was born in Monroe, North Carolina in 1936 and although he pitched in 11 different ML seasons, he was a regular starter only in 1963-65 with the Reds.  In 1963 he used an excellent xx curveball (and, reportedly, an occasional spitball) to go 12-8, which included three shutouts.  He started his career in Detroit in 1957 and ended it in Cincinnati in 1968.

 

Louis Peter Skizas(The Nervous Greek).  Lou was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1932.  He started his career with the Yankees in 1956.  In 1957 he played for Kansas City, then for Detroit in 1958, and his last ML season was in 1959 with the White Sox.  In the batter’s box, The Nervous Greek would, at times, put his right hand in his back pocket and swing the bat with his left hand until the pitcher delivered.  Considered a colorful, carousing goofball, Skizas was described by Mickey Mantle as a “hippie from the streets and alleys of Chicago who had a girl under his arm before and after every game.”

 

Lee Constantine Elia:  Lee was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 16, 1937.  He played at short for the Chicago White Sox in 1966 and was a pinch hitter for the Cubs in 1968.  He managed the Cubs from 1982 to 1983 and later managed the Philadelphia Phillies from 1987 to 1988.  He is currently the bench coach for the Baltimore Orioles.  Previously he coached for the Phillies, the Yankees, the Blue Jays, the Devil Rays, and for the Mariners.  Throughout recorded history, Greeks are famous for being a bold and daring people of mythical proportions.  Achilles, Alexander the Great, the 300 Spartans, and even more recently, the grossly outnumbered modern Greeks of 1940 who said NO to fascism and held their ground despite the overwhelming might of the Third Reich.  So too, Lee Elia would not just "roll with the punches".  On April 29, 1983 during his tenure as the Cubs' manager, the Cubs suffered a one-run home loss to the Dodgers.   After the game, he held a post-game press conference during which he exploded in a foul language attack directed at the fans at Wrigley Field  (which at that time featured only daytime games due to the non-existence of lighting for night games) for booing and heckling the team. Probably the most memorable statement he made then was:

Eighty-five percent of the fuckin' world is working. The other fifteen come out here. A fuckin' playground for the cocksuckers.[1]

His comments have reached near legendary status with Cubs fans. The team was 5-14 at that point, but Elia felt that they were a better team than they were getting credit for being.

 

Jim Campanis(Born James Alexander Campanis) Jim was born in New York City, New York in 1944.  The son of the infamous Alex Campanis, who was the only Major League Baseball player to have been born in Greece, Jim played 6 seasons of ML ball.  He started out as a catcher with the Dodgers in 1966 and was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in 1969.  He ended his career with the Pirates in 1973.  In the book “Baseball’s Golden Greeks”, Jim is quoted about one of the big moments in his life.  He called it “a Greek moment in Cincinnati in 1967” when Jim was batting against the Reds, Alex Grammas was coaching third base, Chris Pelekoudas (the one and only Greek-American Major League Umpire) was umpiring behind the plate and the Reds’ pitcher was the great Milt Pappas.

 

Bill Sudakis(Born William Paul Sudakis) Nicknamed Suds; Bill was born in Joliet, Illinois in 1946.  He made his ML debut in 1968 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He played for 8 ML seasons from 1968 to 1975 for 6 different teams, including the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, Rangers, Angels, and the Indians.  He was a utility player who could play every position except pitcher.  The switch-hitting Sudakis homered for Los Angeles in his first major league game. The Dodgers' third baseman, in 1969, was made a catcher and had won the everyday job in 1970 when he broke a finger. He became a versatile utility man. More than one-third of Sudakis' hits were for extra bases. (JCA)

 

George Theodore(Born George Basil Theodore)  NicknamedThe Stork”, George was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1946 and only played 2 seasons in the majors with the Mets in 1973 and 1974.  He played 1st base and in the outfield and posted a lifetime batting average of .219 with 42 hits and 2 home runs.

 

Erik Pappas:  (Born Erik Daniel Pappas)  Nicknamed “Pappy”, he was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1966 and played 3 seasons in the majors as a catcher, out fielder and as a first baseman from 1991 to 1994.  He started his career with the Chicago Cubs and ended with the St. Louis Cardinals.  He played in a total of 104 games, got 70 hits, and logged a lifetime batting average of .246.  Erik has been an important member of the Greek National Team since 2002 when he was invited to help the Greek team play in it’s first official international competition during the B’ Pool European Championship in Hungary and has been with the team ever since.  His leadership both on and off the field have proven to be invaluable.  In that tournament he led the team in hits, batting average, RBI’s, and was tied for homeruns with Scott Demetral at 5 homers each.  He was called again the following year to play for Greece in the A’ Pool European Championship in Holland where he again rose to the occasion and led the Greek squad to the final game against The Netherlands.  Again, Erik led the team in hits and batting average.  Greece lost that game by a close score of 2 – 0, but nonetheless took home the silver and with it qualified for the Olympic games in Athens.  Thus, Erik went to Athens in 2004 and played the game of baseball for Greece in the Athens 2004 Olympics. 

 

Eric Karros:  (Born Eric Peter Karros) Eric was born in Hackensack, New Jersey in 1967 and made his Major League Debut in 1991 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He played for the Dodgers until 2003 when he was traded to the Cubs.  At the end of the 2003 season the Cubs granted Eric free agency and Rob Derksen was hoping to include him on the Greek Olympic team roster, but before the start of the 2004 season he signed with the Oakland Athletics only to be released in August of 2004.  Upon his release from the A's he notified the Greek team that he was willing and able to help the effort, but by then it was too late to add him to the 40 man roster.  His participation on that team just might have made the difference.  Throughout his career, Eric played first base and was an outstanding ball player.  During his career he accumulated a .268 lifetime batting average along with a .325 on base percentage, while slugging 284 homers (all time LA Dodger leader in homeruns).  He was named Rookie of the Year in 1992.  He now works as a baseball commentator for ESPN and Fox Sports.  He is probably the best baseball player to have never played in an All-Star game.

 

Tino Martinez(Born Constantino Martinez) Tino was born in Tampa, Florida in 1967.  The second son of Sylvia and Rene Sr. Martinez, as prescribed by traditional Greek custom, he was given his grandfather’s name (his mother is of Greek descent) Constantino.  He started playing from the age of 5 and his father encouraged him to pursue the game.  Tino made his Major League debut in 1990 with the Seattle Mariners with which team he played until 1995.  In December of 1995 he was traded to the New York Yankees where his game peaked.  He played first base and led the Yankees to 4 World Series Championships.  In 1997, he won the Home Run Derby during the All Star Game.

 

George Alex Tsamis:  George was born in Campbell, California in 1967 and pitched for the Minnesota Twins during the 1993 season.   He appeared in 41 games and had a record of 1-2 with an ERA of 6.19. During Spring Training in 1995, he played with the LA Dodgers as a replacement player while the Major League Baseball Player's Association was on strike.  Due to his role as a replacement player, he was blacklisted and was never allowed to enroll as a member of the MLBPA.  He is the current manager of the St. Paul Saints, a professional independent minor league team from Minnesota.

 

Clint Zavaras(Born Clinton Wayne Zavaras) Clint was born in Denver, Colorado in 1967.  He made his Major League debut in 1989 with the Seattle Mariners where he made 10 starts and was then sent down to the Minors.  He was traded to the Colorado Rockies in 1993 and he finally called it quits in 1994.  Since then he has been working as a professional pitching instructor and is currently a scout for the San Diego Padres.  Clint played with the Greek Olympic team in Athens for the 2004 Olympics.  He started Greece’s first game of the Olympics against The Netherlands.

 

Clayton BellingerClay was born in Oneonta, New York in 1968.  His grandparents on his mother’s side were Greek.  He made his Major League debut in 1999 with the New York Yankees and he played for the Yanks in 2000 and part of 2001.  He played every position (including designated hitter) except for catcher and pitcher.  He also played two games at first base for the Anaheim Angels in the 2002 season.  Clay was a crucial player for the Greek Olympic team during the Athens Olympics in 2004.  His experience and professionalism helped carry the team of mostly young minor leaguers to a competitive level most of the team members had never experienced.  Sportswriter Larry Mahnken jokingly attributes the Yankees lack of World Series success since 2000 to a curse resulting from Bellinger’s departure in 2000.  The Angles’ World Championship in 2002, when Clay briefly played for them, is cited as proof of the “curse”.

 

Sean SpencerSean was born in Seattle, Washington in 1975.  He made his Major League debut in 1999 as a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners.  The following year he was traded to the Montreal Expos.  Sean’s great-grandfather’s name was Jim Spetsieries and it was he who changed the family name to “Spencer”.  Sean’s career was plagued with injuries and for a while it looked like his career would be over until the late Rob Derksen found him and asked him to play for Greece.  Sean pitched for Greece in the A’ Pool European Championship and helped the Greek team take the silver medal in 2003.  He pitched again for the Greek Olympic team in 2004 and did a great job for the land of his ancestors.

 

Aaron Wade Miles:   Aaron was born in Pittsburg, California on December 15, 1976 and made his MLB debut on September 11, 2003 while playing for the Chicago White Sox.  He played in 8 games and hit .333 with 2 RBIs.  In spring training 2000, he wrestled an attacking gunman while the gunman was shot to death by the police. Aaron is an outstanding switch hitting second baseman who played for the Colorado Rockies in 2004 and 2005.  In December of 2005 he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals where he played exceptionally well during the 2006 season.   

Miles was originally drafted by the Houston Astros in the 19th round of the 1995 amateur draft. As a member of the Colorado Rockies, he finished fourth in the voting for the 2004 MLB Rookie of the Year Award for the National League. 

During the the 2004 Olympic Games, which were held in Athens, Greece, Miles, being of Greek heritage (his paternal grandmother was born in Sparta), made the roster of the host nation's Greek Baseball Team, but the switch-hitting rookie second baseman was recalled to the Rockies from their Triple A farm club on May 31, 2004 and Rob Derksen was forced to cut him from the Olympic Team.  Aaron  won a World Series Championship with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. In December of 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that he was re-signed with the World Champions to an incentive laden one-year deal for the 2007 season.

 

Kevin Pickford:  (Born Kevin Patrick Pickford) Kevin was the Pittsburgh Pirates 2nd round draft pick and 54th overall in 1993.  He played on several different minor league farm clubs until 2002 when he was traded to the San Diego Padres and posted an 0 – 2 record.  He pitched in 16 games, 4 of which he started.  He was traded to the San Francisco Giants in 2003 and played two seasons with Triple A Fresno in 2003 and part of 2004.  He was supposed to play for Greece in the Olympics, but an elbow injury 2 months before the games took him off the roster.

 

Chris George:  (Born Christopher Anthony George) Chris was the number 1 draft pick for the Kansas City Royals in 1998.  He pitched for the U.S. Olympic Gold Medal winning team in 2000 at Sydney, Australia.  Since then, he has been called up to pitch for the Royals in the majors in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. 

 

Mike Tonis (Born Michael Timothy Tonis on February 9, 1979, in Sacramento, California)  Mike's family name was actually "Koutsantonakis" and for obvious reasons, his grandfather shortened the name to "Tonis".  Mike studied at the University of California where he was the star of their baseball team.  He is a very talented catcher with a strong and accurate arm, while at the plate his power is very noticeable.   He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 2nd round of the 2000 amateur draft and he made his major league debut on June 20th, 2004.  Mike also had the privilege to play on the Greek Olympic team for the Athens 2004 games.

 

 

http://www.abca.org/topnav/awards/playersofyear/2003%20Old%20NJCAA%20Division%20I%20Player%20of%20the%20Year.htmlhttp://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/baseball/bal-osspring2006-photogallery,0,6611522.photogallery?coll=bal-baseball-storyutil&index=17http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/events/allstargames.jsp?mc=_cal_car

Nicholas William Markakis:  Born on November 17, 1983 in Glen Cove, New York, Nick is an outfielder who currently plays for the Baltimore Orioles and went to Young Harris College. He was the Orioles' first-round draft pick; seventh player picked overall, in 2003 and was named to the Second Team in the 2005 Minor League All-Star Roster [1]. Markakis was originally drafted in 2001 by the Cincinnati Reds, from Woodstock High School in Woodstock, GA but decided to attend Young Harris College instead. The Reds drafted him again in 2002, but he did not sign then either.

At Young Harris College, Markakis played as both an outfielder and a pitcher, hitting for a .439 batting average with 21 home runs and 92 RBIs, while also gathering a 12-0 win-loss record as a pitcher with one save and a 1.68 ERA in 15 games. Most Major League teams viewed Markakis as a pitching prospect, but the Orioles preferred to cash in on his power. He spent his first year with the Aberdeen IronBirds, producing a strong batting average but little power in his swing. In 2004, Markakis played for the Greek Olympic baseball team, and spent the year with the Delmarva Shorebirds, where he raised his average and produced more power hitting. In 2005, Markakis started the year with the Frederick Keys and put together a solid first half of the baseball season. He won the Carolina/California League All-Star Game home run derby, and followed that up by being named MVP of the All-Star game after hitting two home runs in the game. Markakis was promoted a short time later to the Bowie Baysox, where he continued to hit well and earn a reputation as the Orioles' hottest prospect.

During the 2006 off season, Markakis was considered to be the top hitting prospect in the Orioles' farm system. Several teams inquired about him in trades, but the Orioles rejected any proposal that included trading Markakis. With the team failing to sign a star outfielder, the Orioles decided instead to sign Jeff Conine for one year, hoping that Markakis was only a year away from playing in the major leagues. Markakis began his first Spring Training with the Orioles in 2006, and immediately established himself by reaching base 9 out of his first 10 plate appearances. Because of his performance during Spring Training, Markakis was able to earn a roster spot on the Orioles opening day roster.

Markakis made his major league debut on April 3, 2006, when he was used as a late inning defensive replacement against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He received his first start and plate appearances on April 5, 2006, also against the Devil Rays. Hitting second and playing left field, Markakis drew three walks in his first three plate appearances and hit a 400 foot home run for his first major league hit in the Orioles 16-6 win. On August 22, 2006, Markakis went 3 for 4 with three home runs in an Orioles 6-3 win at Camden Yards. The game marked his first career three home run game, the 18th Oriole to do so and the first since 1999. The feat prompted a curtain call from the dugout for Markakis, earning him a feat that The Washington Post called "an ovation that is rarely seen in these parts anymore. Curtain calls are for Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, not Camden Yards." [2] [3]

 

 

Greek Women who played the game:

 

Just as the pioneering Greek men embraced the truly American sport of baseball, so did many brave Greek women.  Despite strong old world traditions to the contrary, some Greek American and Greek Canadian women worked their way to the big leagues of American baseball.

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was a women's professional baseball league that existed from 1943 to 1954.  Due to World War II and because of concern about maintaining baseball in the public eye while the majority of able men were away, several major league baseball executives started a new professional league with women players. Principal differences with the men's game were in the size of the diamond, the pitching styles and the size of the ball. Indeed, the game was actually softball for the first season, but rules were gradually changed over the years until the game was virtually identical to men's baseball. The players were also required to wear short skirts during play and lipstick at all times, were preferably to have long hair, and not to wear slacks or trousers at any time.

The Rockford Peaches won the most league championships with four (1945, 1948, 1949, 1950). The Milwaukee/Grand Rapids Chicks were second with three (1944 in Milwaukee, 1947 and 1953 in Grand Rapids). The Racine Belles (1943 and 1946) and the South Bend Blue Sox (1951 and 1952) each had won two, and the Kalamazoo Lassies won in the league's final season (1954).

The 1992 film A League of Their Own, although fictionalized, covers the founding and play of this league. Tom Hanks, Rosie O'Donnell, Geena Davis and Madonna were the stars of the film, which was directed by Penny Marshall.

 

Vickie PanosBorn in Edmonton, Canada to Greek Canadian parents, Panos was a professional baseball player for the AAGPBL from 1944.  She played for the Milwaukee Chicks as one of the teams top offensive stars, swiping 141 bases in 115 games, second most in the league that year.

 

1949 Springfield Sallies;Front Row: Jane Moffet, Betty Degner, Kay Lionikas, Barbara Liebrich, Shirley Burkovich

 

1949  Springfield Sallies; Front Row: Jane Moffet, Betty Degner, Kay Lionikas, Barbara Liebrich, Shirley Burkovich

Kay Lionikdas: (also known as Kay Lionikas and Kay Lionikis) was a professional baseball player for the AAGPBL. Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey to Greek-American parents, she played center field for the Springfield Sallies from 1948 to 1950.

 

Annastasia 'Stash' Batikis:  born in Racine, Wisconsin was a female center fielder professional baseball player for the Racine Belles. She played in the AAGPBL in 1945.  "Stash" first got interested in playing baseball as a young girl in third grade while watching men play baseball on the playgrounds. When she got older she joined the Recreation Department League and played softball. She and her high school friends would go out to games where Racine played and watch in awe the women who played so well. At 18 years of age and in her senior year in high school, she tried out at the Historic Horlick Field where the Racine Belles played and made the cut, she was then sent to Spring Training in Chicago where she got a contract with the Racines, playing for her home town. At that time only one other woman in the league played for her home town.

Batikis played for one season because she left the following year to attend college at La Crosse, Wisconsin. After her career as a professional baseball player ended, Batikis went on to get a teaching position, working in the educational department for 35 years. She did a lot of volunteer work for clubs, churches, ball teams, and civic groups.  She often gave talks about the League she played in.  Annastasia's brother, Alex S. Batikis, served in the United States Navy from 1943-1946.  Her second brother John served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII in China, Burma, and India and also in Korean during that war.

  • Ann was still in high school when the league first started.
  • Her advice for young women who want to become pro ballplayers: "If you have a dream - work at it. Don't give up. Play hard - listen to your coaches."
  • She believed that playing ball gave her the opportunity to travel, meet all kinds of neat people - helped with self confidence.
  • Anastasia is an alumna of Northwestern University
  • In 2002 Stash was added to Milwaukee's Walls of Honor, which salutes Wisconsin's baseball history greats.
  • She is in the hall of fame at her old college University of Wisconsin for being a pioneer for women in professional baseball.
  • Inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Washington Park Hall High School in 1987 along with her brother John Batikis who was inducted in 1976.
  • Stash's league served as the inspiration for the 1992 motion picture A League of Their Own starring Geena Davis, Madonna and Tom Hanks.

Quote

..."I never dreamed I would make it, but I did. Seeing my name on the list of gals that made the team was my biggest thrill," said Annastasia[1]

 

What About Umpires???

 

Although there have been a considerable number of successful Greeks who played in the big leagues, there has only been one Greek Major League Umpire. 

 

Christos George Pelekoudas (January 23, 1918 - November 30, 1984)  Chris was an umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the National League from 1960 to 1975.

Born in Chicago, Illinois into a family of 14 children, he had an unsuccessful tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals as a player in 1934. He began umpiring while serving as a Special Services officer during World War II, and eventually worked his way to the major leagues. He worked in the World Series in 1966 and 1972, serving as crew chief the second time, and in the All-Star Game in 1961 (second game), 1967 and 1975. He also officiated in the National League Championship Series in 1969 and 1973. He is perhaps best remembered for having an apparent Hank Aaron home run nullified on August 18, 1965 because Aaron stepped out of the batter's box when he made contact. As a result, Aaron's home run record is 755, instead of 756.

Pelekoudas was also the first umpire to ever eject Gaylord Perry from a game for using an illegal greasy substance on the ball. He was the home plate umpire when Willie Mays hit four home runs on April 30, 1961, and the first base umpire for Sandy Koufax' perfect game on September 9, 1965.

Pelekoudas died in Sunnyvale, California at age 66.

  • He was an umpire for the first game ever held at Shea Stadium on April 4, 1964.
  • In the book Baseball's Golden Greeks by Diamantis Zervos, Jim Campanis describes a Greek moment in baseball when he was batting against Cincinnati Reds pitcher Milt Pappas, with Alex Grammas the third base coach and Pelekoudas calling balls and strikes behind the plate.

 

A Baseball Author:

 

Diamantis Zervos, born in Athens, Greece to Michael Zervos and Anastasia (Giannenakis) Zervos is the author who is best known for writing the book "Baseball's Golden Greeks." Zervos came to the United States with his family in 1971at the age of 15 and fell in love with the sport during the 1974 World Series.  Diamantis established himself as a soccer player in high school and college, He worked diligently for the advancement of soccer in the Boston area. His book covers the careers of the first Greek-American Major League baseball players, glorifying Hellenic pride and dignity in "The Great American Pastime." -Graduated from the University of Massachusetts, with a degree in biology. - Commonly known as "Adam" - Also has a sister, "Chryssie" -Resides in Canton, Massachusetts with his wife, Evangeline, and two children, Tashia and Michael.

 

Who was playing baseball in Greece?

 

            While baseball was being learned and played by Greeks of the Diaspora across the ocean, baseball was played on a small scale in Greece courtesy of the American military bases.  The U.S. military built 2 fields on the Air Force base at Hellenikon, near Glyfada.  One field was for fast-pitch softball, “Fanis Field”.  Fanis was the name of the Greek groundskeeper who maintained that field as if it was his own personal garden.  In order to thank and honor him, the Air Base Commander named the field after Fanis.  The field is still being used today for the same sport by the Greek Amateur Softball Federation.  The other field was used for slow-pitch softball.  Various teams comprised of American military personnel were formed and they played their favorite American pastime all summer long.  Except for a few Greek-Americans who were either in the U.S. military or were civilian employees, there were no Greeks who participated in the sport until around 1970.  It was then that Father Doumas came to Greece

 

            Father Doumas was a Greek Orthodox Priest from the United States, who was sent to Athens by the Arch Dioceses of North and South America to establish a parish for the Greek-American military and civilian employees who worked for the American mission in Greece.  Father Doumas was an avid baseball enthusiast and so were his 2 young sons.  When he arrived, he found that there was no baseball for young boys and so he took it upon himself to establish a Little League in Greece.  Besides securing support from the U.S. military, he contacted the Greek Government leadership for their support as well.  The Greek government almost immediately responded and built (with the aid and guidance of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers) a complete baseball field on the grounds of the Aghia Kosma athletic center at Hellenikon (across the street from the old Olympic Airlines terminal).  By 1972, four Little League teams were playing baseball on the two baseball fields in Athens.  Two teams were comprised of children of U.S. military personnel and the other two teams were comprised primarily of local Greeks with some help from Greek Americans residing in Athens.  One of the teams was almost completely comprised of boys from a local orphanage whose coach was a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.  In 1974, the Greek Championship team traveled to Germany where it took part in the European Little League Championship and it was there that the Greek team won it’s first European Championship.  Most of the boys on that team were American dependents, but there was one young Greek boy who was on the team, Sam Georgopoulos.  Sam and his team also represented all of Europe in the 1974 Little League World Series.  They lost all their games, but they played well and didn’t get blown out of any game.

 

            After the invasion of Cyprus by the Turks in 1974 and the subsequent demise of the Junta, Greek-American relations began to deteriorate.  Some Greeks believed that America was responsible for the dictatorship and for the Cyprus tragedy.  Greek society began to adopt a somewhat “anti-American” attitude and one of the first victims was baseball.  The baseball field at Aghia Kosma was transformed into a soccer field and the 2 Greek teams were disbanded.  The American military members continued to play fast and slow pitch softball at the Hellenikon fields, but Greek participation was limited to the few Greek-American civilian employees who played as well. 

 

 

Early attempts to Start Baseball Leagues in Greece:

 

            By 1991, the American Air Force Base had closed its doors and the American forces left the base at Hellenikon leaving the two fields behind.  Unfortunately, the Americans rendered both fields unplayable.  They had laid tons of thick gravel and chemical defoliant all over the fields in order to transform the fields into parking lots.  This was made necessary because of the fear of terrorist attacks through the use of hidden car bombs that could have been placed into the vehicle of an unsuspecting member of the U.S. military.  The fields were far away from buildings and so it was considered a safer area for private vehicles to be parked at rather than the existing parking lots.  Obviously, the base teams lost their playing fields and thus softball ceased to be played in Greece long before the base closed its doors. 

 

            In December of 1992, Tom Mazarakis, encouraged by his old friend Matt Barrett, made an attempt to organize a baseball league in Greece.  He created the “Hellenic Baseball Association” (HBA).  He first got formal permission from the Director of the “High Board of Sports of the Armed Forces” (ASAED) on February 2nd 1993 to make use of Fanis Field for games and practices.  He then hired a small group of manual laborers who cleared Fanis field of the gravel and the large weeds that managed to sprout up on various points throughout the field.  He put up flyers at bars and restaurants all over Athens in an attempt to get people who knew how to play the game to come forward.  He placed announcements of the newly formed HBA in the Athens News, Greece’s Weekly, and in the Athenian magazine.  He managed to put together 3 teams.  One team was from the U.S. Embassy, the second team was comprised of members of a small U.S. Air Force unit that was still in Athens tying up loose ends, and the third team was made up of Greek Americans who heeded his call for players.  The American schools ACS and Deree College were invited to participate, but they couldn’t attract enough players to make teams.  The field wasn’t perfect, but they played a few games and had a great time.  They brought their own food and beer and enjoyed playing the great game of baseball.  But, business obligations forced Tom to withdraw his involvement and once the last U.S. Air Force personnel withdrew from the area, the Embassy team didn’t have anyone to play against, thus ending the first Greek Baseball Association’s activity.

 

            With Fanis field in playable condition, Mary Ann Ryder started her own campaign to organize a softball league in 1994.  She too put up flyers and announcements all over Athens telling everyone that they could come to the field on Saturdays and Sundays to play softball.  Slowly but surely, many local Greek boys and girls started to come to the field.  In the beginning to watch, and later on made their first attempts to play the game.  Many of those boys later became some of the first players to play organized baseball in Greece as members of the Spartakos and Titans clubs.  Mary Ann took on the position of coach for both of those teams and led the Spartakos team to their 2nd place finish in the first ever Greek Men’s Baseball Championship in the year 2000.

 

 

Baseball in Greece gets a big boost:

 

            In 1997, Athens was selected to be the host city for the 2004 Olympics and this decision paved the way for the establishment of baseball in Greece.  Recognizing the opportunity to establish a new sport in Greece, the then undersecretary of sports, Mr. Panagiotis Fouras, appointed Mr. Panagiotis Mitsiopoulos to the task of organizing a baseball federation.  Mr. Mitsiopoulos knew nothing about baseball at the time, but he was a successful entrepreneur and he knew how to organize people and resources.  Thus, the “Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation” was created in 1997.  He now needed to find athletes who could either play the game or who would be willing to learn how and he also needed to find clubs that would be willing to form teams that would participate in the entire effort.  This proved to be a very difficult task, but by the year 2000, 6 teams were formed and the first Greek Championship was played.  The first 6 Greek baseball teams were:

 

Marousi 2004

Spartakos Glyfadas

Petritsi (now Aris Thessalonikis)

Pelopas Patron

Thiseas Patron

Titans of Argyroupolis

 

The first Championship was won by Marousi 2004.  The team was mostly comprised of Greek Americans and Greek Canadians who knew how to play the game before joining the team.  The other teams were comprised of players with little experience and knowledge of the game, but they certainly displayed passion and enthusiasm for the new sport.

 

Second place went to Spartakos Glyfadas under the able coaching of Mary Ann Ryder.  The Spartakos team was almost completely comprised of local young men who had only been playing the game for a few weeks.

 

Later that same year, the first “Greek Cup Championship” was organized and Spartakos Glyfadas took the first ever Cup.  Pelopas Patron took the silver medal and Marousi 2004 took the bronze. 

 

Marousi 2004 won the following three Greek Championships of 2001, 2002, and 2003, while Spartakos Glyfadas won the Championships of 2004, 2005, and 2006.  Spartakos also won the Greek Cup in 2002 and in 2004.  Aris won the Cup in 2001 while no Cup tournament was held in the years 2003, 2005, or 2006.

 

 

 

 

Let’s play in the Olympics?

 

Many people assumed that since Greece was going to host the games, they could automatically field a baseball team, but Mr. Mitsiopoulos, President of the HABF, knew very well that this was not the case.  For team sports such as Soccer and Basketball, the Greek teams did indeed get automatic qualification, but that was due to the fact that the Greeks have highly competitive athletes in both of those sports.  This was exemplified by Greece’s earlier dominance during the European Soccer Championship in June of 2004 when they took home the Cup!  But for other team sports including baseball, softball, and field hockey, the corresponding international federations demanded that the Greek teams prove that they can compete at a respectable level.  No sport leadership is interested in experiencing a “Jamaican Bob-Sled” scandal.  This is why Greece did not have a field hockey team in the Athens 2004 Olympics.  There is a Greek Field Hockey Federation, but it simply couldn’t put together a team that could be competitive on an Olympic level. 

 

Can Greece realistically compete in the Olympics?

 

            Thus, Mr. Mitsiopoulos and the Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation needed to find a way to field a team that could actually qualify for the games.  This meant that a Greek team needed to be able to first play in the B’ Pool European Championship in 2002 where it needed to come in either 1st or 2nd place so that it could be promoted to the A’ Pool.  Once in A’ Pool, the Greek squad would need to place either 1st or 2nd in the A’ Pool European Championship in 2003.  It was obvious to everyone that it would be impossible to achieve these goals with the players and coaches who were currently involved with the sport in Greece.  Mr. Mitsiopoulos needed some serious help and he found it at the American Embassy in Athens.

 

            Nicholas Burns was the U.S. Ambassador to Greece at the time and was a well known baseball enthusiast and Red Sox fan.  He was very happy to be of assistance and contacted Major League Baseball and several important, enthusiastic, and influential Greek Americans who could be of help.  Men like Peter Angelos, Chris Karalekas, Chuck Samiotis, and Bill Galatis.  The most important man he brought into the picture was Peter Angelos, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles.  Being of Greek descent, Mr. Angelos immediately embraced the idea and made it an important part of the Baltimore Orioles organization.  He appointed one of his best scouts, Robert Derksen, to the task of locating as many top quality Greek American and Greek Canadian baseball players as he could, and to put together a team that could compete in the Olympics.  And that’s exactly what he did.  Over the next 4 years he searched all over America and Canada in order to find high caliber players who were of Greek descent.  He visited Colleges, Spring Training Camps, Coaches conventions, and High Schools all over the U.S. and Canada.  Some of the players were relatively easy to spot by virtue of their names, i.e. Kavourias, Pappas, Theodorakos, etc., but some were not so obvious such as Spencer (originally “Spetsieris”), Dallas (originally “Ntalamangas”), Harris (originally “Theoharis”), and many others who got their Greek blood from their mother’s side of the family including Heisler, Bellinger, Pickford, Kingsbury, Martinez, and many others.

 

            In the mean time, “Major League Baseball International” decided to help the “Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation”.  MLBI’s goal was to help baseball development in Greece.  The first assistance was in the form of equipment.  A whole container of equipment was shipped to Athens in the summer of 1999 and the HABF distributed the equipment to the various newly formed baseball teams.  Then, in 2001 they sent Mike Riskas as their “Coach in Residence in Greece” for the promotion and development of youth “Grass Roots” programs.   

 

Mike Riskas  is a former Baseball Coach of Pomona College in California.  This is not the first time he has worked for MLBI.  He coached the French National Junior Team in the 1988 European Championship, in which he led the team to the Bronze medal.  He also coached the French National Senior Team in the 1999 European Championship and led the team to the Bronze Medal.  Mike conducted several clinics and seminars for Coaches and Players and spent countless hours helping everyone and anyone who wanted to learn about anything and everything about baseball.  He travelled all over the country and made every effort possible to help develop the game he loved.

 

Greece makes its debut in its first ever official International Tournament:

 

            By July of 2002, Rob Derksen had put together an impressive collection of mostly minor league Greek American and Greek Canadian ball players and took them to Hungary to play in the B’ Pool European Championship.  The Greek team was invincible.  They won all their games in only 7 innings due to the mercy rule and obviously by lopsided scores.  Their first game was against Slovakia, which ended up in second place and the Greek team overwhelmed them 21 – 0.   The National team of Greece scored 21 runs to support Alexander Cremidan’s brilliant pitching with 11 strike outs, a complete game and a no-hitter.  In the end, the team scored 121 runs with 25 homers and gave up only 8 runs during the entire tournament. 

 

The players that took part in this tournament were:

 

Erik Pappas:    Even though Erik hadn’t played competitive baseball in years his performance during this tournament showed how and why he made it to the majors.  He led the team in hits, batting average, RBI’s, and was tied for homeruns with Scott Demetral at 5 homers each.  A truly great baseball player, Erik’s participation proved to be crucial to the team’s success and can’t be over emphasized.  His professionalism, dedication, and enthusiasm gained him the respect and admiration of all his team mates and opponents alike. 

 

Scott Demetral:  Scott  played three years of professional baseball in the Pioneer and Frontier leagues.  His grandparents, Chris and Louise Demetral, were both born in the Athens suburb of Voula and migrated to the U.S. in the 1920’s where they settled in the city of Detroit.  He is currently an assistant coach with the Akron Zips.  His performance with the Greek team was outstanding with a .571 Batting average, 5 homers, 13 RBI’s,  and 12 hits.  Scott comes from a baseball family of 4 baseball playing brothers including Chris, Ted, and Mike. 

 

Theodore Demetral:   One of Scott Demetral’s younger brothers, Theodore (Ted) played 3 seasons with the Michigan State University Spartans.  Ted played in each of the 6 games the team played in at 2nd base where his defensive play was outstanding and although he collected only 5 hits, two of them were doubles and he drove in 6 runs while scoring 7 times himself. 

 

Constantine (Gus) Panagotacos:  Gus played for the varsity baseball team at the University of California at Berkeley where he earned his B.A.  He then went on to the University of San Francisco School of Law where he earned his J.D. in 2005.  He currently is working as a litigator for Gordon & Rees LLP.  Becoming a lawyer must have been a very important priority in this young man’s life, because he certainly is a talented baseball player.  In this tournament he batted .550 with 11 hits (2 doubles, 1 triple and 2 homeruns), 11 RBI’s, 16 runs, 8 stolen bases, and 4 bases on balls.  A very impressive performance.

 

Theodore Filis:  Theodore played in all 6 games at short where he played brilliant defense.  During the tournament he logged an impressive batting average of .550 with 11 hits (2 doubles & 1 HR), 8 RBI’s, 10 runs, 2 stolen bases, and 5 bases on balls.

 

Peter Rasmussen:  Pete made a sterling performance during this tournament.  He batted .550 with 11 hits including 3 doubles and 4 homeruns, 15 RBI’s, 9 runs, and 3 walks.  He played in all 6 games at center where he made 3 catches and no errors.

 

Christopher Tartaras:  Christopher played in parts of 5 games at 3rd base where he shared that position with Scott Demetral.  In his 10 times at bat he safely hit 5 times including 4 doubles for 4 RBI’s and he scored 5 times as well.  Defensively he had 3 assists and no errors. 

 

George Kottaras:    Very talented and only 19 years old, George played in all 6 games.  He caught in only 3 games for a total of 16 innings during which he nailed one runner trying to steal 2nd.  At the plate he logged a batting average of .368 with 7 hits (1 double, 1 triple, and 2 homers), 6 RBI’s, 11 runs, 2 stolen bases, and 3 walks.  George was signed to a professional contract with the San Diego Padres and attended his first spring training last year.  He probably would have played for the Padres this year if they hadn’t signed Mike Piazza, but look out for this young Greek-Canadian, because he is going to make it to the big leagues and when he does he will make it BIG.

 

Peter VaronPeter played in all 6 games at first base where he made 47 putouts, 2 assists and no errors.  He batted .333 with 5 hits (2 homers), 11 RBI’s, 14 runs, and led the team with 9 walks.  In 2004 Peter was signed to a professional contract with the Kalamazoo Kings of the independent league and the following year he played for the Seattle Studs.

 

Christopher Van Rossum:  Chris has been playing professional baseball in the minors since 1996.  His mother is from a small village on the island of Chios, Pitios.  Chris played in right field in all 6 games during which he made 4 catches and no errors.  Everyone couldn’t help but to admire this young man’s amazing arm.  He repeatedly threw the ball from the warning track to home plate for strikes!  He batted .318 with 7 hits (3 doubles and 2 homeruns), 8 RBI’s, 8 runs, 1 stolen base, and 4 walks.

 

Athanasios Les:  Athanasios played in all 6 games moving around the outfield and even one game at first base.  He batted an even .300 with 3 hits including 1 homerun, 2 RBI’s, 5 runs, and 2 walks.  His versatility in being able to play all outfield positions as well as first made his contribution invaluable.

 

Stephen Palos:  Steve is from California and his grandfather migrated to the U.S. in the 1920’s.  His grandfather’s name was Apostolos Giannakopoulos, but he shortened the family name to Palos.  He played in all 6 games batting .300 with 3 hits, 2 RBI’s, 4 runs, 1 stolen base, and 1 walk.

 

Christopher Robinson:  Chris was one of two players who were chosen out of the Greek Baseball League and he was the only player on the team who was actually born in Greece.  Chris plays for the Spartakos of Glyfada Baseball Team. His mother is Greek and his late father was an American, Thomas Robinson.  His parents met while Tom was in Greece as a member of the U.S. military.  Chris spent most of his life in Greece, but he got a full basketball scholarship for the University of Kentucky.  Chris played in 5 games and batted .222 with 1 single and 1 triple scoring twice.

 

Dimitrios DourosJimmy was one of the two players who were chosen from amongst the various athletes who compete in the local Greek Baseball League.  Although Jimmy was born and raised in the U.S., he learned about the fact that the Greeks started playing baseball in the summer of 2000 while he has attending summer classes at the International Center of Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies in Athens.  He joined the Marousi 2004 Baseball Club and played a major role in their domination of the sport claiming 4 consecutive championships.  Jimmy played in 4 games batting .714 with 5 hits (including 1 double and 1 homerun), 3 RBI’s, and 4 runs.

 

Gregory SpanosGreg is an extremely talented utility player who can pitch and hit and play the outfield as well.  Still at Trinity College he heeded the call to play for the country of his ancestors and started 2 games for a total of 12 innings of scoreless baseball while ringing up 12 strikeouts.  His ERA was 0.00

 

Laurence Heisler:  Laurence’s mother is Greek from the island of Crete where she met his father while he was serving in the U.S. Air Force.  Laurence played for The University of Central California and then briefly in the minor leagues before starting his own mortgage company.  He pitched 1 complete 7 inning game allowing only 1 unearned run, 3 hits, and 1 base on balls, while accumulating 9 strikeouts.  His ERA was 0.00

 

Jason ZachosJason is from California and his grandfather was from a small village near Larisa.  Jason pitched 4 scoreless innings in 3 different games allowing only 1 hit and 3 strikeouts.  His ERA was 0.00.  He relocated to the Greek island of Rhodes in August of 2005 and is currently a player with Spartakos Glyfadas

 

Alexander CremidansAlex started in 2 games the first of which was a no-hitter.  In his second game he gave up 2 earned runs while collecting 7 strikeouts.  His final ERA was 1.38.  Alex was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks and is currently a relief pitcher with the Missoula Ospreys.

 

Peter Dallas:  Pete’s grandfather migrated to the U.S. in the 1920’s and his Greek name was Dallamangas.  He shortened it to Dallas for convenience.  Pete pitched in two games picking up 1 win.  He lives in Chicago, Illinois where he owns a baseball clinic for young kids.  Peter is also a player on the Spartakos of Glyfada team.

 

Now on to the next plateau!

 

            The first hurdle had been cleared and suddenly Greece became a European baseball power worthy of respect.  But, IBAF still insisted that the Greek team needed to place 1st or 2nd in the A’ Pool Championship the following year.  Otherwise, Greece was not going to be allowed to field an Olympic Team.

 

            Rob vowed to bring an even better team to Holland for the A’ Pool Championship and that is exactly what he did.  The Greek team was even better in 2003 than it was in 2002.  Despite losing their first game of the tournament against Spain by a score of only 1 – 0, the Greek team bounced back to easily defeat all the subsequent opponents including Italy by a score of 2 – 1 .  In the semi-final game, Greece faced Spain for a second time, but this time Greece easily defeated Spain by a score of 10 – 0 in 8 innings.  Thus Greece played in the final game against The Netherlands and although they lost that game by a score of 2 – 0, they proved that Greece could play the game and that they deserved to play in the Olympics. 

 

 

The new players who played in Holland were:

 

Cory Anthony Harris:  Cory’s Greek name is Theoharis and his grandfather shortened it to Harris.  He is an extremely talented baseball player who plays with an extreme passion for the game.  In January of 2006 he signed a professional contract to play for the Lincoln Saltdogs in the Independent league.  In the tournament in Holland his bat and glove were on fire.  He batted .414 with 12 hits including 3 doubles, 5 runs, 6 RBI’s, and 5 walks.  On the field, he caught 16 fly balls and made 3 assists. 

 

Nicholas Theodorou:  Nick is another very talented ball player who can use his bat and glove equally well.  His grandfather migrated to the U.S. and so his father was born there, but his mother was born in Greece.  He played College ball at UCLA and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998.  He has been playing in the Minor leagues ever since, mostly on AAA teams.  In 2006 he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and it is expected that he we may see him playing on that big league team.  During the tournament in Holland he batted .333 with 11 hits including 1 double and 1 triple, 8 runs, 4 RBI’s, and he drew 4 walks.  On the field he played at short where he got credited with 11 putouts, 18 assists, and only 2 errors.

 

Nicholas Markakis:  Nick is probably the most talented young Greek American ball player coming up today.  He can do it all.  He was the Baltimore Orioles’ #1 draft pick in the regular draft of 2003 and number 7 overall.  The Orioles are expecting great things from Nick.  Their biggest dilemma was deciding on where to use him.  He can both pitch and hit!  His arm is a cannon and he can step up to the mound and release 92 mph fastballs with ease.  But, his ability to field the ball in the outfield and hit the ball with his bat are equally impressive.  Everyone is looking forward to seeing this young man’s name on the starting lineup for the Orioles in the year 2006.  During the Holland tournament he batted .323 with 10 hits including 1 double, 5 runs, 7 RBI’s, and 2 walks.  On the field, he caught 8 fly balls and made 1 assist. 

 

Christopher Demetral:  The third brother of the Demetral family, Chris came to the team with 11 seasons of professional baseball experience, 7 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and 4 with the Texas Rangers.  Seven of those seasons were spent in Triple A.  His uncle, Jim Essian, played in the major leagues for 10 years and managed the Chicago Cubs in 1991.  In this tournament, Chris’ performance was impressive, especially with his glove.  He made 13 putouts and 23 assists while making absolutely NO errors.  At the plate, he batted .269 with 7 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs.  He has retired from professional baseball and now works as an investment banker in the U.S., but when the home of his ancestors called upon him to help, he stepped forward.

 

Peter Maestrales:  Pete’s family is from the island of Chios.  He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Francisco Giants in 2001.  Since then, he has played on several Independent and Single A baseball teams.  In this tournament Pete’s batting average was only .214 but his OBP was .371 since he had drawn 7 walks to compliment his 6 hits, one which was a double and one of which was a homerun. 

 

Christopher Lemonis:  Chris was born and raised in Brooklyn and he was signed to a professional contract by the Detroit Tigers in 1995.  He played 10 years in the minors including single, double and triple A teams.  In this tournament he played at first base and hit the only other homerun that the team had during this tournament.  His batting average was .200 with 6 hits, 6 RBI’s, 3 runs, and 4 walks.

 

Panagiotis CheilakisPanos was one of the two players chosen from amongst the young men who participate in the Greek league.  He was born and raised in Athens where he has been playing baseball since the age of 16.  Panos is an extremely talented infielder who is fearless when faced with any ball hit in his direction.  His speed, agility, and quick thinking make him an invaluable member of the Spartakos of Glyfada baseball team.  His contribution to the National Team’s effort in Holland was limited mostly to pinch running and pinch hitting appearing in 5 games.  He had 2 at bats striking out once and drawing a walk the second time.  He got some field playing time and fielded the ball once for an assist.

 

Ioannis ApostolopoulosJohn was the second player chosen out of the Greek league to participate in this tournament.  John too is a young man who was born and raised in Athens and had been playing baseball for only 3 years, but his passion and dedication for the game are commendable.  He was one of the best players on the Marousi 2004 baseball team in the Greek league.  In the tournament, he appeared in 3 games as a pinch runner and as a pinch hitter.  In his one and only at bat, he drew a walk and scored twice.

 

 Sean SpencerSean was born in Seattle, Washington in 1975.  He made his Major League debut in 1999 as a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners.  The following year he was traded to the Montreal Expos.  Sean’s great-grandfather’s name was Jim Spetsieries and it was he who changed the family name to “Spencer”.  Sean’s career was plagued with injuries and for a while it looked like his career would be over until the late Rob Derksen found him and asked him to play for Greece.  Sean pitched for Greece in the A’ Pool European Championship and helped the Greek team take the silver medal in 2003.  He pitched again for the Greek Olympic team in 2004 and did a great job for the land of his ancestors.

 

Panagiotis (Peter) Sikaras:  An extremely talented right handed pitcher who throws sidearm, Pete was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2000 as their 13th pick and 399th overall.    He played on single, double, and triple A teams in 2000 to 2005 strictly as a relief pitcher.  Pete threw only 3 innings in relief and appeared in 4 different games during the tournament, picking up 1 save.  His ERA was 0.00, he gave up only 1 walk and 3 hits while striking out 5.

 

Meleti MelehesMild mannered Mel was huge.  Mel is from Canada and has played for the London Werewolves of the Independent League as well as for the Guelph Royals of the Intercounty League of Ontario.  He posted a perfect 0.00 ERA in 6.2 innings during which he accumulated 6 K’s.  He started on the mound for Greece in the first game against Spain and was charged with the loss after the team gave up 1 unearned run in the third inning.  He gave up only 4 hits and his remarkable control allowed absolutely no bases on balls.  A truly remarkable performance.  The Greek team collected 6 hits but couldn’t score a single run and thus lost their first game 1 – 0.

 

Louis RaptopoulosA very talented young man from San Diego, Lou pitched in relief in 3 games picking up 1 save.  He pitched a total of 4.1 innings of hitless baseball allowing only 1 walk and he hit one batter.  His ERA was a perfect 0.00.  Lou has since joined the Marousi 2004 team of Athens and pitched brilliantly for them in the Greek Championship of 2004. 

 

Peter SoteropoulosAn outstanding pitcher, Pete was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003 out of the University of Connecticut.  He has been playing as a relief pitcher on single A teams until 2005 when he played on an independent team.  He started on the mound in the game against Russia and pitched 3.1 innings for the win.  He also pitched 1 inning of relief in the game against Germany.  He posted a perfect 0.00 ERA allowing only 5 hits and 1 walk.

 

Thomas LyonsTom is a young pitcher who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2001.  Since then he has been playing in the Minors and played for the Oneonta Tigers of the New York – Penn League in 2003, 2004, and 2005.  In this tournament, he started in 2 games and posted wins in both.  His ERA was 0.90 allowing only 6 hits, 1 walk, 1 hit batter and only 1 earned run in the 10 innings he pitched. 

 

Kevin Pickford:  Kevin started on the mound in 2 games and pitched an inning of relief in a third game for a total of 16.1 innings.  While giving up 15 hits he only allowed 2 earned runs for a 1.10 ERA.  He was credited with 1 win and 1 loss.  The loss was from the final against The Netherlands which we was lost by a score of 2 – 0.  Kevin is currently a free agent.

 

Troy Pickford:  Kevin’s brother pitched in one game, but that game was the most crucial of the entire tournament.  He started on the mound in the game against ItalyTroy pitched the first 5 innings giving up only 1 earned run.  He corralled the Italian bats and limited them to only 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 hit batter while striking out 2.  His ERA was only 1.8 and his performance during those first 5 innings set the stage for Sean Spencer to enter the game in relief and pick up the win while Pete Sikaras came in to pitch to the last Italian batter in the bottom of the 9th whom he struck out for the save.  Troy as well as Kevin were expected to play for Greece in the Olympics, but shortly before the games they both suffered elbow injuries that forced the Greek team to count them out.

 

Chris Youngberg:  Chris appeared in 2 games one in relief for 2/3 innings and he started on the mound in the second.  He started against Spain in the semifinal game and pitched 3 scoreless innings allowing only 3 hits and 1 walk for the win.  for a total of 3.2 innings.

 

Christopher Anthony George:  Chris was one of the best Greek-American pitchers that Dirk found, but unfortunately, he was injured just before the tournament in Holland started and couldn’t play. 

 

The players who returned to the team after playing in Hungary were:

 

Constantine (Gus) Panagotacos

Peter Rasmussen

Scott Demetral

George Kottaras

Laurence Heisler

Erik Pappas

 

 

Now on to the Olympics!!!

 

            With the road clear to the Olympics, Rob set his sights on putting together an even better team.  He spent the following year searching and fine tuning his team.  He knew that the level of play at the Olympics would be far better than that which they encountered in the European Championships, but he was intent on making the best possible effort.  Unfortunately, luck was not on the side of Robert Derksen or on the side of the Greek Olympic Team.  With less than a month before the Olympic Games, Robert Derksen died of a sudden heart attack while scouting a new player he had found in New York City.  His loss had a huge impact on the team’s morale.  Almost at the same time, the Greek team lost 3 starting pitchers, Kevin Pickford, Troy Pickford, and Tony Stavros to injuries and switch-hitting second baseman Aaron Miles got called up to the Majors with Colorado.  This forced Dusty Rhodes, who stepped up to take Rob’s place, to find replacements at the last minute, which proved to be impossible.  On top of that, A.J. Brack  and Derek Nicholson were tested positive for an illegal substance and were banned from the games, thus taking away another starting pitcher and a powerful batter.

 

            But, the Greek team was at the Olympics and they played the best they could, and many will agree when I say that they played damn well! 

 

 

 

The Test Event!

 

            In preparation for the Olympics, Robert Derksen, along with the insight of Mike Riskas, put together 12 players from the U.S. and selected an additional 12 players who played on one of the Greek baseball teams to play for Greece in the Olympic test event, which was held at the Olympic Baseball Stadium from March 24th to March 28th.  Three other national teams were invited to participate in this event.  They were Russia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.

 

            In the first game, Peter Maestrales was the first batter to come to the plate and he hit the very first pitch over the right field fence for a homerun!  This was a great way to start the game and the tournament.  But, Greece lost that first game by a score of 9 – 6.  Greece  bounced back the next day and easily defeated Sweden by a score of 16 – 6.  In both of these games, the starting line-ups consisted of players from the U.S. and Rob made a few substitutions as the games progressed with players from the Greek league.  The next game was against the Czech Republic and for this game Rob decided to field an almost entirely “Greek – League” team.  The result was to be expected.  The Czech team destroyed Greece by an extremely lopsided score of 22 – 3.  The score would have been worse if the Czech team hadn’t taken out all of its first string players and used their bench warmers by the 4th inning. 

            On the following day the Greek team faced the Czech team in the semi-final game.  For this game, the Greek-League players stayed on the bench and the Greek team thus defeated the Czech team by a score of 11 – 9.  In the final against Russia, the Greek team easily took the Gold Medal with a 5 – 1 victory. 

 

The Greek-League players who were on the team were:

Christopher Robinson                  Spartakos Glyfadas

Vasilis Arvanitis                          Spartakos Glyfadas

Panagiotis Cheilakis                   Spartakos Glyfadas

Kyriakos Kourtzoglou                 Spartakos Glyfadas

George Lebessis                            Marousi 2004

Ioannis Apostolopoulos               Marousi 2004

Evagelos Papaevangeliou           Marousi 2004

Ioannis Pennas                               Marousi 2004

Dimitris Douros                              Marousi 2004

Chris Testempasis                         Aris

Angelos Koumpounis                   Pelopas Patron

Panagiotis Raptis                           Olympiada Peristeriou

 

The Players who came over from the U.S. were:

Stephen Palos

Cory Harris

Peter Maestrales

Theodore (Ted) Demetral

Peter Dallas

Andrew J. Brack

Constantine (Gus) Panagotacos

Gregory Spanos

Chris Youngberg

Chris Van Rossum

Kevin Cheppenko

 

 

Greece makes it's debut in the Olympics

 

Greece’s first game:

 

            Former big leaguer Clint Zavaras started for Greece in Greece’s first Olympic baseball game against the Dutch.  Clint hadn’t pitched in a professional game in 10 years, but he hadn’t lost his touch.  He gave the team 3 amazing scoreless innings including 4 strikeouts.  He struck out the side in the 2nd and the Greek team was looking good after the first 3 innings.  But in the 4th, his arm betrayed him and the Dutch started hitting him all over the place.  After giving up a homerun and a few hits, Dusty pulled him out of the game and brought in Sean Spencer.  The final score was 11 – 0, but the worst part was the fact that the Greek team couldn’t get a hit.  Only Nicholas Markakis was able to get both of Greece’s only 2 hits during the entire game.

 

 

Now that we’ve warmed up, bring on Cuba!

 

            Greece’s next game was against Cuba and everyone was expecting Cuba to demolish the Greek team after its poor showing against the Dutch team.  But, the Greek team played very well against the eventual Gold medal winning team and the combined brilliant pitching of Jared Theodorakos, Panagiotis Sikaras, and Alex Cremidans kept the Cuban bats relatively quiet with a little help from the spectacular Greek defense which included amazing defensive plays by former Yankee Clay Bellinger, Cory Harris, and Robert Kingsbury.  By the top of the 9th the Greek team was down by a score of 5 – 1.  The Cubans were 3 outs away from another easy win, but the Greeks had a different scenario in mind.  Chris Demetral led off for Greece and drew a walk.  Erik Pappas struck out, but Clay Bellinger drew another walk.  That second walk of the inning prompted the Cuban coach to change pitchers.  That gave Greece runners at 1st and 2nd with only 1 out.  Cory Harris then ripped one to the left field warning track where the Cuban left fielder, logically playing Cory deep, easily pulled it down for the second out of the inning.  We now had 2 outs with runners on 1st and 2nd and the Greek team’s back was to the wall.  Nicholas Markakis then came to the plate and hit the ball to the right center wall for a triple and 2 RBI’s.  Nicholas Theodorou then got a single scoring Markakis and we now had a 5 – 4 game with the tying run on 1st and the go-ahead run at the plate.  And who comes to the plate?  Big Jim Kavourias!  Most of the Greek fans in the sold out stadium didn’t or couldn’t fully comprehend the history being made on that field on that night.   The Greek team was on the verge of making baseball history!  Just getting this close to the Cubans was big news around the baseball world.  Being faced with possible disaster and humiliation, the Cuban Coach pulled out his pitcher and brought in his “Ace” reliever Pedro Luis Lazo to throw to Kavourias.  The Greek team was just one homerun away from making the baseball upset of the century and if anybody could do it Jim Kavourias was the man for the job.  Jim worked the count to 3 – 2 before finally succumbing to Lazo’s overpowering pitching and struck out to end the inning and the game.  Nonetheless, all the sportswriters had plenty to report that day for Greece came very close to quite possibly changing the outcome of the Olympics as far as baseball is concerned.

 

Greece’s third game was against Chinese Taipei and Peter Soteropoulos did a great job for the first 4 innings during which he gave up only 2 earned runs.  Peter Sikaras came in to pitch in the 5th inning and shut the Chinese down in the 6th inning as well.  Then, in the top of the 7th, the Greek team got on the scoreboard.  Cory Harris led off the inning with a gigantic homerun over the left field wall to make the score 2 – 1.  The next batter, Nick Markakis, singled up the middle.  Bob Kingsbury then flied out, but Peter Maestrales drew a walk to put runners on first and second with only 1 out.  George Kottaras then hit a deep fly ball to right center that was caught for the second out, but Nick Markakis tagged up to move to 3rd.  Then, Nicholas Theodorou drew his 3rd base on balls for the day and Greece was poised to do some serious damage with the bases loaded.  Chris Demetral came up to the plate and struck out to end the inning.  Everyone was disappointed that Greece only was able to get 1 run in that inning, but that is baseball!  The Chinese team beat up on Greece in the bottom of the 7th scoring 5 runs. 

 

Game four was against Canada, which played against Japan for the bronze medal.  Mel Melehes started for Greece and pitched a great game giving up only 2 earned runs in 6.1 innings.  Sean Spencer closed the game and shut the Canadians down, but the Canadians silenced the Greek bats and so the game ended at a very close 2 – 0 score.

 

Game five was against Australia, which took the silver medal home, and it couldn’t have started off better.  By the second inning, Greece was ahead 4 – 0 and Greece’s starting pitcher, Clint Zavaras, had shut down the powerful Australian hitters for the first 2 innings.  But, by the third inning Clint had run out of gas.  He gave up a single to the lead-off batter and the next hitter slapped a 2 run homer to put the Australians on the scoreboard.  Clinton’s arm was hurting and Dusty knew it.  The relievers started throwing in the bullpen.  The next Australian grounded out to third baseman Peter Maestrales and the next batter hit a long fly ball to center that was pulled down by Cory Harris for the 2nd out.  At that point Dusty called in Alex Cremidans to pitch for Zavaras only to give up a solo home run to the first batter he faced.  The inning ended and Greece was ahead by only 1 run.  During the game, Greece got 14 hits and 6 runs, while the Australians got 10hits and 11 runs.  Final score Australia 11 Greece 6.

 

 

Game six was against Italy, which hadn’t won a game yet either.  In their first game, which was against Japan, they lost 12 – 0 in 7 innings.  Both Greece and Italy needed to win this game, but it was Greece that came out on top at the end of the game by a score of 12 – 7.  Jared Theodorakos started for Greece, but the Italians scored 1 run in the 2nd and clobbered him for 4 runs in the 3rd.  Peter Soteropoulos came in for Jared in the 4th inning and pitched well until the 6th inning when sidearm throwing Pete Sikaras was called in to shut the Italians down for good.  The Greek team scored 2 runs in each of the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings in order to make the game close with the Italians still ahead by a narrow score of 7 – 6.  But, in the top of the 7th, the Greek team exploded for 4 runs to take the lead and added 2 more in the top of the 9th

 

Greece’s last game was against JapanJapan came to Athens for the Gold medal, but was upset by Australia in the semifinal game by a score of 1 – 0.  Mel Melehes started for Greece and pitched a great game.  He gave up only 7 hits in 5.2 innings and allowed only 2 earned runs.  At the end of 6 innings the score was Japan 2 Greece 0.  Then in the top of the 7th, the Japanese team knocked in 4 runs to take a 6 – 0 lead.  The Greek team was only able to score 1 run off of Erik Pappas’ solo home run in the bottom of the 7th

 

And so ended Greece’s first appearance in Olympics Baseball. 

 

The Greek Olympic Team Roster was:

 

Clayton Bellinger                           Infield

Michael Koutsantonakis              Catcher

Cory Anthony Harris                     Center Field

Erk Daniel Pappas                         1st Base, Catcher

Chris Demetral                                2nd Base

Robert Kingsbury                          Left Field

Nicholas Markakis                         Right Field

Nicholas Theodorou                     Short Stop

Vasili Spanos                                  Designated Hitter

Clinton Zavaras                              Pitcher

Dimitris Douros                              Catcher

George Kottaras                             Catcher

Meleti Ross Melehes                     Pitcher

Peter Maestrales                             Infielder, Outfielder

Sean Spencer                                 Pitcher

Peter Rasmussen                          Outfielder

Jared Theodorakos                       Pitcher

James Kavourias                           Outfielder

Laurence Heisler                            Pitcher

Christopher Robinson                  Pitcher

Alexander Cremidans                   Pitcher

Peter Soteropoulos                       Pitcher

Panagiotis Sikaras                         Pitcher

 

 

 

 

Some of these players played for Greece for the first time.  They were:

 

James KavouriasBoth of Jim’s parents are Greek.  His father was born in Ikaria, and his mother was born in the Peloponese.  His father migrated to America when he was about 24 years old while his mother was taken to the U.S. while she was still just a baby.  He has many aunts, uncles, and cousins still living in Greece, as well as his grandmother.   He played three years of college baseball at West Virginia U, Pensacola JC, and the University of Tampa.  He was drafted out of Tampa by the Florida Marlins in the 5th round of the 2000 draft, and spent six years in the minor leagues.  Career highlights: 

1st team all American at University of Tampa 2000

Midwest League All Star 2001

Greek Olympic Team 2004

In 2005 Jim had an excellent year with the Joliet Jackhammers of the Independent League.  He asked to be released at the end of the season so that he could take some time off from Pro-ball in order to complete his College Studies.  We all expect Jim to go back to Professional baseball once he finishes with his higher education.

 

Michael Koutsantonakis:  Mike’s grandfather migrated to America in the early 1900’s and shortened his last name to Tonis”.  Therefore Mike’s name on his U.S. birth certificate reads:  Michael Timothy Tonis Mike was an outstanding College baseball player who played for the University of California “Golden Bears” .  Mike was the 2nd round draft pick for the Kansas City Royals in 2000 and had been playing in the minor leagues until 2004 when he was called up.  He made his Major League debut on June 20th 2004, but only got to play in 2 games and had only 6 at bats.  On August 13th he was designated for assignment to make room on the 40 man roster for RHP Matt Kinney who was released on waivers from the Brewers.  This made it possible for Dusty Rhodes to bring Mike to Greece for the Olympic Games.

 

Jared Theodorakos:  Jared was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1981 and went to college at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  He was the 25th draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2003 and was signed to a professional contract with them in 2004.  The highlight of his amateur career will certainly go down as his amazing performance against mighty Cuba when he kept the Cubans down to only 3 earned runs. 

 

Robert Kingsbury:  Bobby was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1980 and played college ball at Fordham University in New York.  He was the number 8 draft pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002 and has been playing on Pittsburgh farm teams in 2003, 2004 and 2005. 

 

Vasili Spanos:  His Greek heritage is from both parents.  His mother was born in Piraues, Greece. She is the eldest of five siblings.  Her parents  were born on the island of Kalymnos of the Dodecanese. Her parents are George Ypsilantis and Sevasti Mouzourakis (maiden name) Ypsilantis.  His mother, a brother and her parents migrated to America in 1947.

His father, George Spanos, was born in Planeterou, Kalavriton Greece and went to America in 1951 after the Greek Civil War. His father was Vasilios Spanos and his mother was Vasileke Kamberos (maiden name) Spanos.  He has hundreds of relatives from the Kamberos side who migrated to America from the early 1900's.

He played College Baseball at Indiana University from 1999-2003. He was selected by the Oakland Athletics as their 11th round draft pick in 2003 and has since been playing in the minors.

In an email message he wrote to the author with these closing remarks:

“It was a great honor to play on the Greek Baseball Olympic Team!  This was an experience that will always be memorable. I'll never forget the overwhelming and enthusiastic FAN support that the Greek Olympic Team received from our fellow

HELLENES! 

 Good Luck,

Vasili Spanos

 

Clinton Zavaras(Born Clinton Wayne Zavaras) Clint was born in Denver, Colorado in 1967.  He made his Major League debut in 1989 with the Seattle Mariners where he made 10 starts and was then sent down to the Minors.  He was traded to the Colorado Rockies in 1993 and he finally called in quits in 1994.  Since then he has been working as a professional pitching instructor and is currently a scout for the San Diego Padres. 

 

Two players tested positive for drugs were wrongfully punished.

 

Andrew James Brack A.J. was tested positive for a steroid, but he never knowingly took any kind of illegal performance enhancing drug.  A.J. was the victim of circumstances beyond his control.  His mistake was to drink an “over-the-counter” power drink that apparently was tainted with the illegal steroid.  Although the steroid content was negligible, it none the less appeared in the drug test and he was therefore banned from the games.  His absence was deeply felt since he is a talented and experienced pitcher whose assistance on the mound could have made a huge difference in the team’s performance.  Getting his Greek Heritage from his mother’s side of the family, he was thrilled at the prospect of ending his pitching career as a player for the country from which his grandfather, James Venechianos came from, at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.  His parents travelled all the way to Greece to watch their son play for Greece

 

Derek Nicholson:  Derek was completely innocent.  His test showed that he had taken a diuretic, but he has a high blood pressure problem and necessarily takes doctor prescribed drugs to lower his blood pressure.  This was a completely unfair decision on the part of the Olympic officials.  Derek is not a boxer or weight lifter who needs to reduce his body weight through the use of diuretics.  He will need to follow doctor’s orders and take the necessary drugs that he needs to maintain his blood pressure at acceptable levels for the rest of his life.  To penalize him for his ailment was sad.  Derek was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 16th round in 1998 and was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 2001.  He has played excellent ball in the minors and is destined to break into the Majors.

 

 

 

The Coaching Staff:

 

Dusty Rhodes                                 Manager

Dusty has an outstanding track record as a “winner”.  His lifetime record of 1072 wins versus only 428 losses is a testimony to that fact.  He was an assistant coach for the 1996 Australian National Olympic Team and worked as an assistant coach for the USA National Team in 1993, 1994 and 2001.

 

Mike Riskas                                     Coach

Mike speaks Greek since he is of Greek descent.  His mother and father were both from Greece.  He is a former Baseball Coach of Pomona College in California.  This is not the first time he has coached an international team.  He coached the French National Junior Team in the 1988 European Championship, in which he led the team to the Bronze medal.  He also coached the French National Senior Team in the 1999 European Championship and led the team to the Bronze Medal.  It’s also worth noting that Mike was an outstanding athlete and played both football and baseball for UCLA, where he earned both his BA and MA degrees in Physical Education, from 1954 to 1958.  In 1954, his football team won the NCAA Division I National Championship undefeated.  He also played in the infield and outfield for the UCLA varsity baseball team where he was voted “Most Outstanding Senior” and “Most Inspirational Player”.  He was inducted into the UCLA Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.  While in Greece, Mike conducted several clinics and seminars for Coaches and Players. 

 

Scott Demetral:                               Coach

Scott played three years of professional baseball in the Pioneer and Frontier leagues.  He is currently an assistant coach with the Akron Zips.  Scott comes from a baseball family of 4 baseball playing brothers including Chris, Ted, and Mike.  Chris played for Greece in the Olympics.

 

John Kazanas                                 Coach

John is a graduate of The University of Missouri at St. Louis where he played baseball.  As a senior in 1976, he led the team with a .385 Batting Average.  He stayed with the school for several years as an assistant coach.  He is now a very successful scout for the Chicago White Sox.

 

Alex Anthopoulos                          Scout

Alex worked for the Greek Olympic team diligently searching for players of Greek descent that could help the Greek team’s effort.  He was hired as the scouting coordinator for the Toronto Blue Jays and has since been assigned to be the assistant to the General Manager, J.P. Ricciardi.

 

Brian Bradshaw                             Trainer

Brian is an assistant athletic trainer with the Towson Tigers and his professionalism proved crucial in keeping the Greek players as healthy as possible for the games.

 

 

Post Olympic Games Baseball in Greece:

 

Since the Olympic Games ended, the Olympic Baseball stadiums have been left to just rot away.  No one is allowed anywhere near the facilities.  Fortunately, the two practice fields that were also built for the games have been released to the care and use of the Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation.  The Federation has since used the fields to host the 2005 Greek Baseball Championship from March to June. 

 

In July of 2005, the Greek National Team traveled to the Czech Republic in order to play in the European Championship.  Unfortunately, only 7 of the original 23 Olympic athletes were able to join the team for this tournament. 

They were:

Erik Pappas

Chris Demetral

Pete Rasmussen

Jim Kavourias

Mel Melehes

Laurence Heisler

Jimmy Douros

 

Several other players weren’t allowed to come either because their teams wouldn’t let them go or due to the fact that bureaucratic delays caused the late issuance of their Greek passports.  They included Clay Bellinger, Cory Harris, Michael and Ted Demetral, Jared Theodorakos, Peter Maestrales, Peter Dallas, and Louis Raptopoulos.  But, 10 players selected from the Greek league were selected to help the team in the Czech Republic

 

They were:

Harry Assimakopoulos                     Spartakos Glyfadas

Panagiotis Cheilakis                        Spartakos Glyfadas

Vasilis Arvanitis                                Spartakos Glyfadas

George Andronakos                         Olympiada Peristeriou

Marino Soteropoulos                        Pelopas Patron

Mike Koumpounis                             Pelopas Patron

George Lebessis                              Marousi 2004

Ioannis Apostolopoulos                    Marousi 2004

Roberto Kalderon                             Milonas

Miguel Georgopalis                          Milonas

 

This significantly weaker team was able to win 3 games and placed 9th out of 12 teams.  This guaranteed that Greece will stay in the A’ Pool of the European teams and will compete in the A’ Pool of the European Championship in 2007.  The team that wins that Championship will automatically go to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. 

 

The National Team was supposed to participate in the World Championships in the Netherlands in September of 2005, but financial difficulties forced the Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation to withdraw Greece from the tournament at the very last minute.  Fortunately, the Czech Republic fielded a team to take the place of the Greek team. 

 

On November 26th and 27th, the Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation hosted an international tournament in Athens.  The first Balkan Invitational Baseball Tournament in which teams from Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria participated.  The Greek team completely consisted of players who belong to Greek teams that participate in the Greek league.  Despite rain and inappropriate behavior on the part of certain Greek players and certain Greek fans, the tournament was a great success.  The Greek team played very well winning 3 out of 4 games and took 2nd place behind the Bulgarian team, which also won 3 out of 4 games, but took 1st place because of a run difference. 

 

 

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