Following a year of almost unprecedented success, the Greek National Baseball Team revealed big news recently with the hiring of former Hellas player Chris Demetral as its new manager. Demetral takes over for Rye Pothakos, who piloted the team from 2018 until now and led the squad to its first appearance in the European A-Pool in years.
In Demetral the Greeks gain a baseball lifer with loads of experience in both domestic and international tournaments. A 1991 Dodgers draft pick, Chris Demetral played 11 seasons in the minor leagues, including seven in Triple-A. He also served as Hellas’ primary second baseman during the team’s Cinderella appearance in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, and remained in place through 2014. The 51-year-old California native comes from a distinguished baseball family, as his brothers Scott, Mike and Ted also suited up for Hellas at various points. Additionally, his uncle, former MLB catcher Jim Essian, skippered the Greek team until 2018. Demetral’s son, Andre, is an infielder at Northern Illinois University, and looks to be a crucial part of the Greek program’s future.
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The coaching shakeup wasn’t done there, as Demetral quickly anointed former big leaguer Erik Pappas the team’s hitting coach. A three-year MLB veteran, Pappas was a first-round pick back in 1984, and appeared in 104 lifetime contests for the Cardinals and Cubs. A 2004 Olympian, Pappas brings over a decade of professional experience as a player, and also served at one point as hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals’ Double-A affiliate. Much like Chris Demetral, Erik Pappas has an up-and-coming son in the Greek pipeline, 20-year-old Western Michigan University lefthander Luke Pappas.
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With a bevy of playing and coaching experience injected into the ranks, Hellas looks poised to embark upon a very successful run in the near future. A boatload of young, talented players seeking citizenship should bolster the roster, as the Greeks look to improve upon their 14th place showing in this year’s European A-Pool tournament. Chris Demetral sees great things on the horizon, with the ultimate goal being a World Baseball Classic berth. He stated, “I look forward to working to make Greek baseball become one of the top teams in Europe again, along with working towards qualifying for the World Baseball Classic and other major tournaments.”