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Nick Friedell

Athens Flashback: Oompa!, ouzo and baseball

Fourth-Place Medal

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As I read through all of these Olympic baseball stories, I can't help but remember one of my favorite parts of the 2004 Games.

The Greek Baseball Team.

Never have four words fit so awkwardly together. Greece served as the host country in '04, meaning it had to have a team compete in every single sport. Get the picture ... the baseball squad was made up almost entirely with Americans of Greek descent

As soon as I got to Athens, I was determined to see the team in action. I wasn't expecting that the atmosphere would be that much different from any other baseball game, but boy was I wrong. I realized quickly that the Greek fans didn't have a clue about the game of baseball.

A foul ball was knocked into the crowd early on in the first game I attended, and the fan who caught the ball instantly launched it back on the field. The public address announcer's voice came booming across the stadium, telling fans they could keep balls that were hit into the stands. The fans around me started nodding and cheering; obviously the impact of getting a free ball had become as important as the game itself.

By the third inning, I was already in disbelief, but I hadn't seen anything yet. The next batter came up and hit a fly ball into the outfield. The runner on third tagged up, beat the throw, and slid safely to score the Greeks' first run.

The crowd went ... silent???

They didn't know what was happening. A few more seconds went by, at this point I wasn't sure what was going on either. Had I missed something? All of a sudden, a small number one went up next to Greece's logo on the scoreboard. Pandemonium ensued. You couldn't hear yourself think. Baseball had a new home, at least for one night.

Pass the Ouzo.

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