A Baseball Odyssey

''I want to make sure the game stays alive in Greece after the Games,'' says former chief financial officer Bill Galatis.

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.”

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