Georgantas takes on world, coach

After graduation, Ginny Georgantas planned to travel the world, endure physical training everyday and represent her country by joining the U.S. Marines.

The former USF softball star got her wish, but instead of an assault rifle, she will be carrying a bat for the Greek National team.

“I guess the Marines will have to wait,” Georgantas said.

Georgantas was approached to tryout for the 2004 squad in her junior year, but didn’t seriously consider it because she was already signed up to be in the service.

“A lady from the International Softball Federation came to practice my junior year in college and told me about it, but I didn’t think anything about it because 2004 was far away,” she said.

Until right before tryouts, Georgantas was scheduled to join the Marines. That was until the ISF convinced her that she could prove her Greek heritage and play in international competition.

“I told the ISF ‘no,’ I was really set on going to the Marines, but I changed my mind because this is a wonderful opportunity,” she said.

That opportunity has her traveling to exotic locales, receiving job offers and contending for an Olympic medal.

“I think it’s very exciting that a USF player is playing on a national team and representing her heritage,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said. “It’s a great opportunity for her. I think she’s going to be great.”

Her first venture into international competition has the Greek first baseman playing in the U.S. Cup in Honolulu, Hawaii. The first international game for both Georgantas, and Greece will pit them against Canada today.

“I’ve never played international ball before,” Georgantas said. “I’m not really nervous or anything like that. It’s just a different level.”

If Georgantas isn’t nervous for her first game representing her heritage, then the second game may rattle her nerves. Friday Greece takes on the host country, the United States.

Not only will Georgantas face the country that she has lived in for more than 20 years, but she will also face the man that has coached her since she was 12. Georgantas’ former coach at USF, Eriksen, is also an assistant coach for the U.S. National team.

“It’s going to be hard because he has known me since I was 12,” Georgantas said. “He knows all my weaknesses, all my strengths, everything.”

The idea of playing against her former coach and confidant does not daunt Georgantas.

“I know that he wants me to do well,” she said. “It’s going to be awesome to play against him. I’m really happy that he’s (a) U.S. Olympic coach.”

While they remain friends off the field, as soon as the opening pitch is thrown, Eriksen said it’s strictly business.

“We’re going to go out there and pitch to their weakness,” Eriksen said. “I know that she knows when the weekend starts, we’re going to go out there and battle. We are going to battle her and try and get her out.”

Georgantas won’t be the only member of the Greek team facing her home country. Fourteen team members are Americans, with one player from Canada and only two natural Greeks. While all are of Hellenic descent, only two speak Greek as their first language and one or two more speak it as their second.

The team has trained in Tempe, Ariz., for seven days in January and has not seen the Greek Island or been on display for their people, but they feel confident that they will have a warm reception.

Even though they are a first year squad, Georgantas said Greece still expects a medal when the Olympics are held in Greece in 2004.

“Our goal is to win a medal,” Georgantas said. “I really think that the gold is really obtainable. Looking at the talent on the team and looking at team chemistry — the way we play together — I think that goal is obtainable to win a medal.”

Even if a medal isn’t obtained, Georgantas will still reap the benefits of representing a country on the world’s greatest stage.

Georgantas still intends to join the Marines after her softball tour is over but representing Greece is already starting to open the other doors of opportunity.

“I’ve got endorsements and stuff like that,” Georgantas said. “It’s been easier for me to get jobs.”

While a lot of doors have been opening for Georgantas, one has already been slammed shut.

“I’m definitely not an actress,” she said. “(I did a video for) a hitting tool called the Zingbat.”

For now Georgantas is content with putting her dream of being a Marine on hold, while the Olympics will provide her with a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I do think of it like we are part of the best of the world,” Georgantas said. “These are the best players in the world. It’s definitely an honor. It’s amazing.”