By now most baseball fans in the Philadelphia area have checked out of the American past time and I don’t blame you with the season we just endured with the Phillies. They were pathetic and downright awful to watch this season and it appears they aren’t heading in the right direction anytime soon. But enough of the hometown team because I’m here to inform the Greek community why you need to continue watching baseball in October.

We, the Greeks have the opportunity to witness something special starting Friday October 10th. For the first time since the late 1950’s two players of Greek descent will participate in a playoff series. Last time this happened the two players were Milt Pappas and Gus Triandos both who played for the Baltimore Orioles. Fast forward to October 2014 and we have two Greeks by the name of Nick Markakis and Mike Moustakas going at it as their teams battle against each other for the right to move on to the World Series.

Markakis plays right field for the Baltimore Orioles, who have been a contender the entire season as they’ve dominated the league finishing with a solid 96-66 record and 12 games ahead of the second place NY Yankees in the AL East. The Orioles came into the playoffs as heavy favorites to win it all. They swept the Detroit Tigers, who were loaded with quality pitching, in order to move on to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1997.

Moustakas plays third base for the Kansas City Royals. The Royals on the other hand finished the season 89-73 a game behind Detroit in the AL Central. The Royals are appearing in the postseason for the first time since 1985 when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win their only World Series. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for the Royals who had a crazy come from behind victory over the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card round. They then carried that momentum into the Division round against the heavily favored LA Angels. Not only did they defeat the Angels but they swept them to set up this improbable ALCS featuring Moustakas and his Royals against Markakis and his Orioles.

Markakis was born November 17, 1983 in Glen Cove, New York and is of Greek and German descent. His parents are named Dennis and Mary-Lou and he has three brothers Dennis, Greg, and Michael. Markakis and his family eventually moved south to Georgia where Nick was really able to establish himself as a ball player. Markakis was originally drafted in 2001 by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school but chose to attend Young Harris College where he played college ball as an outfielder and a pitcher. While at Young he finished with a career batting average of .439 and was twice named player of the year. Eventually Markakis was drafted again in 2003 by the Orioles after spending two seasons at Young Harris.

Markakis also was true to his roots as he played for the Greek National baseball team during the European National Championships in August 2003 where Greece won a silver medal. He then played for the Greek national team during the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens. During that time Markakis was playing in the Orioles minor league system and he was granted the ability to leave the team in order to participate in the Olympics. The Orioles happen to be owned by another Greek, Peter Angelos, who along with his son Louis were the driving force behind assembling the Greek team and establishing a governing Greek baseball federation. As the host country for the Olympics in 2004 Greece had the ability to field entries for all competition but didn’t have a national baseball team until Angelos stepped in and allowed players of Greek ancestry to participate. Playing for the Greek team meant a great deal for Markakis as the fans treated him and his teammates well and all of the clubs games sold out during the tournament.

Markakis has established himself as a mainstay with the Orioles throughout his career. He made his big league debut at the beginning of the 2006 season and hasn’t looked back since. In 2009 Markakis signed a 6 year $66.1 million 6 year contract extension to stay with the Orioles. He eventually went on to hit his 1000th career hit in 2011 against the Indians. Markakis is a career .290 hitter which is a solid batting average amongst MLB players. So far this postseason he’s hitting .250 with a homerun. Now that the Orioles have solidified a spot in the ALCS look for Markakis to improve those numbers as he helps Baltimore capture a World Series title.

Mike Moustakas was born September 11, 1988 in Los Angeles California. Mike’s parents are named Connie and Mike. Moustakas grew up in Chatsworth California where he was able to craft his skills as a baseball player. His father was actually a former UCLA football player so while most of us Greeks (at least the ones I know) enjoy the painting or restaurant industry Mike comes from an athletic background. He also has an uncle, Tom Robson, who was a former MLB hitting coach for the NY Mets. Moustakas received many hitting tips from his uncle growing up which helped make him into the big league hitter he is today with Kansas City. Moustakas is heavily influenced by his yiayia who was born in Greece. To this day Moustakas flies a Greek flag above his locker in the Royals clubhouse.

Moustakas attended Chatsworth High school where he was a 4 year starter for the baseball team. He helped lead the team to a 124-11 record during his 4 seasons and also helped the team to capture 4 West Valley League Championships. During his high school days he also hit 52 career homeruns which to this day is still a California prep state record. Moustakas attempted to be a two-sport athlete as he also played on the high school football team. He eventually suffered a broken ankle which ended his football career but luckily he was able to recover in time to continue on with his baseball career.

In 2007 Moustakas was drafted by the Royals with the 2nd overall pick in the amateur draft and signed with the team that August. Moustakas then worked his way through the Royals minor league system from 2007 to 2011. Along the way he won a variety of minor league awards including the Texas League player of the year in 2010 and the Joe Bauman Home Run award that same season for the most homeruns in the minor leagues.

Enter June 2011 when Moustakas made his major league debut against the Angels where he scored a run. To this date, Moustakas has had an up and down career in the majors. He hasn’t quite had the staying power of Nick Markakis in Baltimore as Moustakas was even demoted back to Triple A earlier this season. But Moustakas has proven his value during the postseason so far this year as he’s a huge reason the Royals have advanced to the ALCS. During the regular season Moustakas only finished with a .212 batting average and 15 home runs and 54 RBI’s. Not exactly ideal numbers from a 3rd baseman, which is supposed to be considered a power position in baseball. During the postseason though Moustakas has stepped it up in a big way so far hitting .333 with 2 homeruns, one of which was the go ahead homerun in the Royals 3-2 victory over the Angels in game one of the division series.

I for one am excited to watch these guys perform in the ALCS and I’ll be cheering for both of them. Although they both can’t advance whoever does will have my support in the World Series. It’s a rare occasion for the Greek community to have someone of Greek descent playing in such a high profile American sporting event so when it happens we should take notice and show our support. Both of these players are also playing solid baseball right now so who knows we might have the chance to see one of these guys end up with the game winning hit to send their team to the World Series.

In recent years the Greeks have been making a name for themselves in the sports world. This past summer Greece finally advanced to the elimination round of the World Cup while in 2004 we captured the EuroCup. The Greek national basketball team defeated the United States back in 2006 in the World Championships. As important as the international team sports are to our community it’s just as important to see us continue forward as individuals in such high profile American sports like baseball. Only a handful of Greek athletes currently play in American sports but for these two gentlemen it’ll be an opportunity for them to showcase their skills on one of the biggest stages. It’s very easy to tune a sport out once your team has been eliminated but thanks to these two guys it’s now just as easy to tune in again. I know it’s not the same thrill we experienced in 2008 when the Phillies won the World Series but if one of these guys ends up lifting the World Series Trophy over their head later this month it’ll be something for Greeks around the globe to be proud of. Tune in Friday night October 10th to watch the American League Championship Series unfold between Baltimore and Kansas City and support our Greek athletes Mike Moustakas and Nick Markakis.