The end of the Athens Games also marked the end of a peculiar six-year-long Olympic dream for former CFO and now restaurateur Bill Galatis: to play for the Greek baseball team. But another dream lives on. “I want to make sure the game stays alive in Greece after the Games,” says the 51-year-old owner of Meze Estiatorio, in Charlestown, Mass.
Galatis’s odyssey began in 1998, when he saw an article in a Greek newspaper seeking Greek-American players for the 2004 Olympics. Olympic rules allow the host nation to compete without having to pass global qualifying rounds — in which the United States was eliminated. The rules also let countries recruit athletes from among foreign-born grandchildren of citizens.
Since baseball was not played in Greece, Greek-American baseball enthusiasts were trying to build a team around qualified U.S. players. Galatis wanted to not only play for the team but also write a business plan for it.
“I was realistic enough to know I couldn’t compete against guys half my age,” he says. But when it came to organization, “being older provided an edge.”
Using Greek-American players proved a Herculean effort in itself: for instance, recruits had to gain dual citizenship, then win waivers from Greece’s military-service requirement. Among the leaders of the group was Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who welcomed Galatis’s help.
Galatis did get a glimpse of glory, playing in a 2001 Athens all-star game with aspiring Olympians. An amateur catcher since Little League, he says, “I’ve got pretty good game-calling and defensive skills.” Catching in the Olympics remained a long shot, though.
And, alas, in the weeks before the torch was lit in Greece, his chances faded. For one thing, controversy arose over how few native-Greek players had made the team. For another, the Greek national squad had improved — leading some to think it might even have a shot at the bronze, behind powerhouses Cuba and Japan.
So, as the Games neared, Galatis was prepared to “catch” the competition from the sidelines — although he packed his catcher’s gear “just in case.”