In Athens, Angelos pushes Greek team

O's owner hopes to help field 2004 Olympics entry

September 08, 1999|By Chris Lehourites | Chris Lehourites,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ATHENS, Greece -- Orioles owner Peter Angelos took another step forward in his desire to help field a Greek baseball team for the 2004 Athens Olympics yesterday, when he was in Athens meeting with members of the Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation.

A reception for Angelos was held at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who is a baseball fanatic and avid follower of the Boston Red Sox. Joining Angelos was Orioles director of player development Syd Thrift and president of the Greek federation, Panos Mitsiopoulos. More than 150 people were expected to attend, but an earthquake, measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, struck just over four hours before and forced many locals to miss the event.

"We're delighted to play the role we've been asked to assume here -- to help the Greek nation get together a baseball team for the 2004 Olympics," Angelos said. "The plans to put this together are coming to fruition already."

This meeting was organized in order to open communication between Angelos and Mitsiopoulos, with Burns serving as middleman.

"I'm committed to this," Burns said, "and I think it's going to happen."

It was Burns who got Angelos to head this program over a year ago. Burns was interested in helping Greece field a team, so he called another Greek-American, Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland. Sarbanes then told Burns that Angelos was the man to get in touch with.

Angelos is trying to gather a contingent of minor-league players who have Greek roots. But there are many other Greek-Americans of varied ages and skills who may try to make the cut, not to mention some Greeks who hope to hone their skills enough to be considered. Qualifying won't be a problem, however; Greece automatically qualifies for the Olympics in every team sport by being the host nation.

"This team is not going to come together overnight," Angelos said. "It's going to be a very involved process. We have a team assembled that can do the job, and we intend to do it. It's very intricate and very complex, but we're going to get it done."

One of the things that needs to be done is to build facilities. Greece has only one diamond in the country, that at a closed U.S. military base outside Athens. And even that isn't in the best shape.

Pub Date: 9/08/99

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