The Dream Begins
Birth of a Team
After the completion of the Olympic games which was marked by an honourable showing from Greece, the team continues to compete in annual tournaments. The camaraderie that has been built over the years and the desire to keep the goal of establishing baseball as a sport for all Greeks keeps the effort going despite the many challenges it faces.
2005 Greece participated in the 2005 European Seniors Championship where limited funding allowed only 7 Greek-American and Greek-Canadian players to be recruited while the remaining players were selected from those players who play in the Greek league. Greece placed 9th in that tournament, which at least allowed Greece to retain its membership in the “Seniors” of Europe.
2006 The Greek Ministry of sports curtailed all funding to the HABF. Consequently Greece withdrew its participation in the 2006 World Cup of Baseball. The Czech Republic gladly took our place.
2007 The Greek Ministry of sports again did not deem it necessary to provide funding for Greece to participate in the 2007 European Seniors Championship and Austria took our place. Greece’s refusal to participate in this tournament resulted with Greece’s automatic demotion from the “Seniors” of Europe to the status of “Qualifier”.
2008 The HABF leadership accepted the reality that the Greek government was not in any position to provide any funding for the sport of baseball. Thus, after considerable efforts by the HABF and personal funding by Panos Mitsiopoulos, Greece sent a team to Portugal in order to participate in the 2008 European Qualifier’s Championship. The help of former Major League player and Manager Jim Essian was recruited and a team was assembled of 9 Greek-American players and 11 players from the Greek League. The Greek team won all its games and thus regained its status as a European Baseball “Senior”.
2010 With its victory in Portugal, Greece qualified to participate in the 2010 European Seniors Championship, that was to be played in Stuttgart, Germany. Without any support from the government, the HABF managed to secure a limited sponsorship from The American University of Athens. The President of the AUA, Achilles Kanellopoulos, generously contributed Euros 25,000, and HABF President, Panos Mitsiopoulos, contributed an additional Euros 5,000. These funds were used to cover a significant portion of the team’s hotel costs and meals. However, all the players and coaches paid for their own transportation costs out of their own personal finances. This team consisted of 14 players from North America and 10 players were drafted from the teams in the Greek league. The team played extremely well in defeating Spain, Great Britain, and Sweden in the first round of the tournament. These 3 victories placed us in 2nd place in our group thereby securing our berth in the 2nd round of the tournament. In the second round we won our game against France while losing against Germany and The Netherlands. That result gave us 4th place overall and that placement gave Greece qualification for the 2011 IBAF Baseball World Cup.
2011 IBAF World Cup of Baseball included the 16 best baseball playing countries in the world. Representative teams from the U.S.A., Cuba, Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Canada, Dominican Republic, Panama, The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Australia, Puerto Rico, Greece all gathered in Panama for this prestigious tournament. Fortunately, the organizing country’s federation provided all the participating teams with hotel accommodations and meals. The teams only needed to provide for their transportation to Panama. Through the fund raising efforts of General Manager Tom Mazarakis and Greek Federation President Panos Mitsiopoulos, the Greek team raised enough money to pay for the entire team’s airfare to Panama. The team played well, but was unable to qualify for the second round of the competition as three of the four best teams in the world were all from our first round group including The Netherlands, the U.S.A., and Canada.
2012 Greece next travelled to The Netherlands for the 2012 European Senior’s Championship. Once again, the fund raising efforts made by National Team GM, Tom Mazarakis, provided the needed funds to pay for all the transportation, hotel, and meals for the entire team with critically important assistance from Major League Baseball International (MLBI). Greece fielded a very competitive team for this tournament and secured its position in the A’ Pool of European Baseball with a 7th place finish.
2014 Greece next competed in the European Senior’s Championship in the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, fund raising efforts did not generate the needed funding to cover the travel, lodging, and meal expenses for the team. Players and coaches were asked to pay for their own expenses including airfare, hotel, and meals. Consequently, we were unable to field a very competitive team. However, we were able to retain our place in the A Pool of European Baseball by finishing the tournament in 10th
2016 Greece next competed in the European Pool A Seniors Championship that took place in The Netherlands. Once again, fund raising efforts fell considerably short of our target. Not enough money was raised to cover the expenses for the entire team and coaching staff and most players and coaches were asked to cover their own costs. As a result, the team was not particularly competitive. Losing almost all of our games, we finished the tournament in 11th . Unfortunately, that 11th place finish sent Greece down to the 'B’ Pool of European Baseball. This meant that Greece will need to send a National Team to Belgrade, Serbia in 2017 where it will compete in a Pool B Tournament for entry back to Pool A of European Baseball. Greece’s opponents in this tournament will be Israel, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, and Serbia.
2017 This wasn't one of Hellas' better tournaments as they finished in last place with a 1-4 record and a trip to the "Pool C" Championship in 2018.
The one win though came against Israel, one of the tournament favourites, and it sparked a renewed commitment to search for new players that will help the team win in 2018 and then continue moving forward.
Jonathan Kountis, Hellas' hard throwing right-hander, stymied Israel's bats for 9 full innings, racking up 15 strikeouts while going toe-to toe with Israel's pitcher who matched Kountis for most of the game ... until the 8th inning. Entering the bottom of the 8th down 1-0, Hellas was faced with a 2-out situation and runners on 1st and 3rd. Max Warren, Hellas' center-fielder turned shortstop, laced a 2- strike double into the gap in left-centre that scored the tieing run and the go ahead run as Jamie Lekas raced around the bases from 1st base.
The winner of the tournament was Austria who went undefeated and who now faces Lithuania, the winner of the other B-Pool tournament that was taking place in Poland at the same time. One of these teams will advance to Pool A for their 2019 championship and entry to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The other remains in Pool B and awaits the winners of the 2018 Pool C Championship for another Pool B Championship in 2019 which will determine the final entry to Pool A.
Teams that were in our division : Austria Bulgaria Hellas Israel Serbia Switzerland
2018 After the 2017 tournament that demoted Hellas to Pool C, it was decided that a major re-building effort was needed to bring back Hellas to Pool A. Jim Essian decided to come back and manage the team and recruitment of players was foremost on the agenda. Essian immediately contacted Rye Pothakos in Saskatoon, Canada. Rye is of Greek descent and has 30 yrs of experience in baseball at the collegiate and professional level in various positions from coach, GM and scout and was the best person for the job. Working with coach John Bissylas, a number new prospects were recruited and added to the team list.
The 2018 edition of Hellas Baseball was a success at the Pool C Qualifiers where the top 3 teams advance to Pool B. In their division play that took place in Dublin, Ireland, the team placed 2nd, losing to Ireland in the finals 10-2 after beating Finland, Slovenia and Norway, and losing to Ireland in round-robin play. Finishing 2nd was enough though to advance to Pool B. Their 3-1 round-robin record bested Romania's 2-2 record, who finished 2nd in their divisional play which had taken place in the Ukraine. The result. Ireland, Hellas and the Ukraine, who won their division, advanced to the Pool B Championship in 2019.
Further recruiting is currently underway and Hellas expects to field a stronger team in July, 2019 for the tournament that's being held in Bulgaria. A win there advances the team to the Pool A Championship in September, 2019 which will determine spots for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.