By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 8/20/2004 6:51:33 PM ET 2004-08-20T22:51:33

The Greek people are terribly proud of the Summer Games. While they have come at a huge cost, there are also benefits to throwing a party this big. You get to keep all the infrastructure and you get to enter a team in every Olympic sport. For the Greeks, that was only a problem when it came to baseball. They don't play baseball here. But for these two weeks, now they do.

It's the American pastime, but there's no American baseball team at the Olympics. They tried but didn't make the cut. So how is there a Greek team, in a land where Homer is known as a writer and not a well-hit ball?

A lot of it has to do with an American businessman.  His parents were born in Greece, and he grew up to own the Baltimore Orioles. Peter Angelos had an idea: what about American ballplayers with Greek blood? A Greek great-grandparent is all you need to qualify, and you can play for the mother country. It's legal and you're in the Olympics!

"It actually gives me pride to play for the team where my grandfather and my mother came from," says Nick Theodouro.

Back home in the states, Theodouro is in the Los Angeles Dodgers Triple-A farm system. In Greece, he can be a star. His parents, who NBC visited in southern California before the games, are so proud, they've changed his bedroom a little.

"This is Nick's shrine -- the house of Nick," says Georgia Theodouro during a tour of the room.

"You can see we're proud, he's proud of his heritage there," says Anthony Theodouro, Nick's father.

Nick's mom was born in a small Greek village and Nick's parents could not wait to come here to Athens to cheer him on.

"Going to Greece, wearing that shirt... it’s just gonna be overwhelming for me. We're gonna be there for him, support him… and we love him," she said in July.

"I'm sure we're going to get very, very emotional. And… think back to his grandparents and all the people that came before him," says Anthony.

Peter Angelos makes no apologies for the mostly-American Greek team — with only two native Greeks on it. His son and business partner, Louis, says it’s about much more.

"Those people who are skeptical or negative truly miss the point about what it means for Greeks all over the world to come together and represent Greece. That's what this team's about," says Louis.

Because playing for Greece is the only way an American ballplayer can go to the Olympics without a ticket, it has, for now, resurrected the career of former New York Yankee Clay Bellinger, whose mother is Greek.

"If you ask any baseball player where they want to be, they want to be in the World Series in October in Yankee Stadium... and I was there. Now, I'm getting a chance to play for the Olympics, and its a wonderful thing to have on my resume," says Bellinger.

A lot of local fans don't understand the game they're watching here on the field. It’s "Greek" to them.

Now, as to the future of baseball in Greece? To be honest, there may not be any. This could just be a two-week run. Because there's no Little League here, kids don't really grow up dreaming of the big leagues. And Olympic planners say there's a better than even chance that the Olympic baseball diamond will be torn up and turned into a park.

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