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Who’s on First? > the story of the first Greek baseball team March 18, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Baseball Handball Volleyball, Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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The Hellenic American Union presents a screening of the awarded documentary Who’s on first? by the Greek-American director, Valerie Kontakos. The screening will be held on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 at 20:00 in Hellenic American Union Auditorium, Athens.

18-03-08_greek_baseball.jpg  The documentary, which was shot in the U.S.A., Greece and the Netherlands, recites the story behind the launch of the first Greek baseball team after Olympic Committee’s assignment to Athens of the organization of the 2004 Olympic Games. The documentary was screened in Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (2006) and won Best Documentary Award at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (2007).

What happens when Greece, a country with no background in baseball, is suddenly required to field a team to compete in the 2004 Athens Olympics? When Athens became host to the 2004 Olympic Games, Greece was thrust into the task of creating a national baseball team that would compete in the Olympics. One problem, Greece had no team, players or stadiums in which to play. What started out as a quirky Olympic novelty turned into a transatlantic Greek tragedy.

Who’s on First? is a documentary that chronicles Greece’s bittersweet effort to establish the until-now foreign sport of baseball. With no cultural or historical context in Greece, baseball has nonetheless captured the imaginations of Greek athletes, who are now bent on bringing Greece into the line-up of Olympic baseball teams. Before this happens, however, they have to learn the game. In September of 1997, after many years of Herculean, but unsuccessful efforts, Athens was chosen to be the host city of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. The Games were finally coming home to Greece, bringing baseball with them.

As the host country, Greece automatically qualified to compete in all team sports. In 1997, when the Hellenic Baseball Federation was founded, baseball was non-existent in Greece. No one knew what or where first base was, let alone what an inning was or how many there were in a game. How would it be possible to train athletes in less than five years to become Olympic-grade baseball players? How could the Greeks compete against the Cubans, Japanese or even Italians? The Baseball Federation realized it desperately needed outside help and turned to Greeks of the diaspora, especially those in America and Canada. Many Greek-Americans in the U.S. responded to the call, in fact the response was overwhelming. It was a dream come true for hundreds of Greek Americans who had played baseball in high school or college.

They suddenly found themselves dreaming of Olympic glory. Two of those hopefuls were Chuck Samiotis and Billy Galatis. Americans of Greek descent, living in Boston, Massachusetts, and in their mid-40s. They saw an ad in a Greek American newspaper and decided that this was their calling.

They hired a professional baseball trainer and dedicated all their free time to preparing for the Olympics. Another Greek American, businessman Peter Angelos, owner of the historic Baltimore Orioles, also came on board to help the fledgling Greek baseball effort. Angelos put his organization behind this project and bankrolled the effort to the tune of one million dollars. Orioles scout Rob Derksen became the manager and went out scouring the U.S. and Canada for professional players with Greek ancestry. The Greek government agreed to issue a Greek passport to anyone with one Greek grandparent and to waive the mandatory military service for all males. The results were excellent. In 2003, the national Greek team, consisting of 22 Greek Americans and two Greeks, won the silver medal in the Pool A European Baseball Championships. The next step was the Olympics!

But not everyone was happy. The Greek baseball players were beginning to worry about their prospects of making the team. Now that the Greek Olympic team was a serious medal contender, was there any place for them on the team? And what about Chuck and Bill, who continued to pursue their dream until the very last game the Greek team played? In the end, the tragic loss of Rob Derksen left a void that was irreparable.

A discussion with the director will follow the screening. Admission is free to the public.

Hellenic American Union, 22 Massalias Street, Αthens, tel 210 3680900.

Related Links > www.hau.gr

Hellenic Baseball Federation > http://www.baseballgreece.com/

Hellenic Olympic Committee > http://www.hoc.gr/EN/info/periodika/6o/3.asp


Panathinaikos triumphs in volleyball cup March 3, 2008

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Athens club drops final’s first set against underdogs EA Patras but wins title for second successive season with 3-1 score

Panathinaikos won the Greek volleyball cup for the second consecutive season, the fifth in the team’s history, with a 3-1 win over EA Patras on Saturday night. The cup triumph secures Panathinaikos a berth in next season’s Champions League.

“This was my first title in Greece with Panathinaikos and I am pleased that we have secured our entry to the next Champions League,” said coach Mauro Berruto, whose team is already through to the quarterfinals this season.

Panathinaikos lost the cup final’s first set 25-21 but rebounded powerfully to demolish any chance of an upset result. The Athens club went on to win the next three sets 25-16, 25-18 and 25-17. The volleyball cup final win was the first for Panathinaikos in all its sporting divisions this season, the historic Athens club’s centennial year.

EA Patras coach Giorgos Christopoulos described the final’s outcome as a fair result. “We believed we could win the cup but lost our concentration after the first set, and the world class of some Panathinaikos players made the difference,” said Christopoulos. “Our aim now is to play in Europe.”

Liberman Agamez, Panathinaikos’s top scorer, was voted the final’s most valuable player. Panathinaikos captain Sotiris Pantaleon praised the final’s underdog for its effort, saying that the club had made major progress. “We were surprised at the start, coming from a tough semifinal,” admitted Pantaleon, whose team overcame Iraklis in five sets in the semifinals. “But then, from the second set we played better and we managed to win.”

Tough task for volleyball team at pre-Olympics tournament November 12, 2007

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Greek squad, now rebuilding, focused on prospects, coach admits > Greece volleyball coach Alekos Leonis said he was viewing an upcoming pre-Olympics tournament in Rome between November 28 and December 2 as part of the rebuilding process. The Greek National Team made a first-round exit at the recent Europeans with one win and two defeats.

The men’s National volleyball team will need to produce miracles at an upcoming pre-Olympics tournament in Rome between November 28 and December 2, following a poor showing at the recent Europeans, if it is to stand a chance of reaching the next stage of pre-Olympics qualifying action.

In Rome, Greece and five other contestants will battle for one place at next January’s final-stage qualifying tournament in Turkey where the European zone’s berths for next year’s Beijing Games will be determined.

Greece coach Alekos Leonis, whose squad has just gathered for the Rome tournament, said he would treat the pre-Olympics tournament in Rome as an opportunity to build for the future.

“We’re looking at this pre-Olympics tournament as a continuation of the recent European Championships. We want to rectify the problems that existed,” said Leonis, whose team was eliminated in the first round at the recent Europeans in Russia following a win and two losses. “Italy rates as the favorite. If we play seriously, we will have laid a claim for the future. The transition toward renewal needs to be conducted smoothly. In recent months, we were joined by Costas Prousalis, Achilleas Papadimitriou and Theoklitos Karypidis. Our objective is to play well and achieve realistic goals, like qualification to the next Europeans. On the other hand, we also want to push forward young players,” added Leonis, who will be missing several players, sidelined by injury, in Rome.

Greece will face the Netherlands and Romania in one of the Rome tournament’s two groups. First or second place leads to criss-cross semifinals. Italy, Croatia and Montenegro make up the other group.

Greece’s PAO wins in Serbia but Iraklis loses October 18, 2007

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Panathinaikos began its challenge for volleyball’s European Champions League with a 3-1 win in Serbia over Vojvodina.

The Greens stormed into the match winning the first set 16-25, but were troubled by their hosts’ serve in the second, eventually losing it 27-25. The Novi Sad team came out strong in the third set too, but Panathinaikos fought back to win it 24-26, before taking the final set 19-25.

Iraklis suffered a 3-0 defeat at home to France’s Cannes after a rather flat performance in Thessaloniki. The Greek champions only posed a threat to the French in the second set, but to no avail. The sets were 16-25, 25-27 and 22-25.

Iraklis picks up Greek volleyball Super Cup September 25, 2007

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Champion Iraklis overcame the resistance of Panathinaikos and won Greek volleyball’s Super Cup last night with a 3-2 victory at Thessaloniki’s PAOK Sports Arena.

Boosted by the strong support of some 3,000 fans, Iraklis was superior in its attacks and won the first set 25-20. Panathinaikos improved its serve and attack and bagged the second set 19-25, but in the third Iraklis overturned a 19-21 deficit to win 25-23. Panathinaikos came back and won the fourth set 20-25 but succumbed to the champion 15-11 in the tiebreak.

Both teams showed a different face to the previous year, due to the arrival of new players and new coaches, Italian Mauro Berruto sits on the bench of Panathinaikos and Swedish Anders Christianson coaches Iraklis. The two clubs are again the favorites for the domestic title.

The Super Cup was the official opening to the new volleyball season, with the league starting this weekend. Proceeds from the event yesterday will be donated to the fight against breast cancer.

Greece may return to World League September 20, 2007

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The Greek National volleyball team is probably on its way back to the World League, the competition the world’s top national sides take part in every summer, after two years in the wilderness of the European League.

Ruben Acosta, the head of the FIVB (Federation Internationale de Volleyball), the game’s global authority, said that Greece is one of the countries to have expressed an interest in participating in this top competition, after missing out in 2006 on commercial criteria.

The Greek federation (EOPE) obviously believes it can now secure television coverage, sponsors and full stands in home matches, which are the criteria it had failed to satisfy two years ago.

Meanwhile, A1 side EA Patras has confirmed the signing of Greek internationals Apostolos Armenakis (27 years old, opposite) and Nikolaos Karaghiozis (19 years old, outside hitter).

Volleyball rues early exit from Europeans September 11, 2007

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The National volleyball team gave fans another heartbreak with its premature exit from the 25th European Championships in Russia, as it finished bottom of its group with one win (3-2 over the Netherlands on Friday) in three games.

Defeats to Germany on Saturday (3-0) and Serbia on Sunday (3-1) meant that coach Alekos Leonis did not get the start he was hoping for in his first major tournament at the Greek bench.

Greece finished level on points with The Netherlands but went out on set difference, after the Dutch beat the Germans 3-0, in a win which Leonis dubbed a Eurovision Song Contest-like match, in which neighbors exchanged favors.

Greece will now have to play in a tournament in November to fight for its qualification to next summer’s Olympic Games.