Baseball coach cries foul over American-heavy roster

Greece’s Olympic baseball coach threatened to quit yesterday over a roster comprising North Americans and just two local players. «I feel very bitter… I’ve been used and I feel insulted as a person and as a coach,» Dimitris Goussios said. «I’ll fight this up until the last minute.» But he said he won’t go onto the field «without my boys» – referring to the local players. Only two local players were included for the 24-man Olympic team announced by the Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation this week. The rest of the places went to players of Greek heritage – as remote as great-grandparents – from the USA and Canada. Goussios said he had not been consulted in the team selection and argued that at least six home-grown players should have been chosen to guarantee that the newly imported sport has a future in Greece. Seventeen teams play in a 5-year-old Greek baseball league here. Greece is relying heavily on its large diaspora to find athletes in baseball and other sports which are largely unfamiliar in this country. Male athletes granted summary citizenship for the Olympics have been exempted from Greek military service. «Of course the American-born players are of higher quality and we warmly welcome them as part of Greece… but this is unfair. Many of the local players have proven their value over the past year,» Goussios said. He said a more «balanced» Greek team won a March Olympic test event against Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic. At the Olympics, Greece will play favorites Cuba and Japan as well as the Netherlands, Taiwan, Canada and Australia. The USA suffered a shock Olympic knockout, losing to Mexico in a qualifying tournament. «We’ve been working very hard for three straight years for this goal and for what?» player Giorgos Lebesis complained. «Many of us are very good… it’s simply not fair.» The Greek Olympic team was created with the help of Peter Angelos, the Greek-American owner of the Baltimore Orioles. Selection was made by three team assistants, following the death of team manager Rob Derksen, who suffered a heart attack in New York last month. Officials from the Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation could not be reached for comment.