Padres Prospect Interview: George Kottaras

From Fort Wayne to Greece and back again. While George Kottaras was living a dream as an Olympian, his teammates in the Padres system were in a playoff chase. No offense to his comrades with the Wizards, but Kottaras would not have passed on the opportunity of a lifetime.

"It was one of the best experiences I have ever been a part of," Kottaras in relection. "It was just breathtaking. The people I met and being over there…I can speak Greek so it was great for me to talk to people and communicate with people. It was a great learning experience."

George Kottaras, a catcher in the San Diego Padres minor league system, may have been born in Toronto but both his parents were born in Greece and he spent the majority of his younger years speaking Greek with his grandparents.

After a brief stint in Camden Yards for practice, Kottaras was shuttled to Athens for the Olympic Games.

Needless to say he took the opportunity to visit family. His parents were already there but he could not miss out on seeing his grandmother.

"I have some Aunts and Uncles and my grandmother lives there," Kottaras explained. "I went and saw her. She lives didn't make it up to Athens since it is about three hours away. We have a house out there and that is where she stays. I took a day to go down and see them."

His parents were obviously ecstatic about his inclusion on the team and had been there waiting his arrival. The arrival of an Olympain.

And the tribute that made it all worthwhile was walking into a packed stadium with the rest of the Olympians representing Greece. Thousands of athletes made the trek through the audience but be sure that his parents were able to pick him out of the crowd.

For Kottaras, nothing could have been sweeter.

"The most memorable experience was definitely the opening ceremony," he said. "It was one of the best things ever – and playing in those games."

Everything has changed since then. George is no longer just George.

"People are telling me, ‘George you are an Olympian now.'

"Yeah, I guess," the suddenly shy Kottaras mouthed. "I try to be humble it. I know it was a great opportunity and it worked out well that we got to go. Even though we didn't show for it, we tried to win. It just didn't work out for us."

Kottaras tried to do his part, going 3-for-12 with a walk, a double, a run scored and two RBI in limited action. He even played first base. Greece went 1-6 and missed out on the medal round.

It was a far cry from fast pitch softball in Toronto. But being selected in the 20th round by the Padres has given him opportunities beyond just the Olympics.

Kottaras had to leave Athens early but arrived home – Fort Wayne being home to his professional baseball career – late.

"I came back – my flight got delayed and I had to stay overnight in Cincinnati," the 21 year old switch-hitter said. "I came back and I was in the lineup that same day. My manager Randy Ready stuck me in the lineup."

While the stick felt a little heavier than normal, Kottaras continued to get on base. Instead of hits, he supplied the team with walks.

"It was just being a little worn out from the travel," Kottaras explains of the condition he came back.

It is likely true that the travel beat him down but the state of euphoria from a dream realized had to take its toll. Being the host Country and representing Greece is a hefty responsibility. He played his heart out as did the rest of his squad and regardless of their play they came out winners.

Besides, it wasn't long before Kottaras regained his stroke at the plate. He never lost it – it was just straggling behind – same as his memories from Greece. He may be back in the states but his when he has a free moment or two he will be thinking about the story of how he became an Olympian and everything that went with it.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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