BY JUSTIN ELLIS, Sports Editor
George Kalafatis was a husband, father, and a friend. He was also considered by most to be the greatest baseball player in LIU history. On Aug. 23, inside the Steinberg Wellness Center, LIU held its inaugural “Leadership in Sports” seminar.
To celebrate the occasion, family and former teammates appeared in remembrance of the man they miss dearly. Guests included his wife Fran Kalafatis, and daughter Lara Kalafatis. George Kalafatis’ ex-LIU teammate Eugene Spatz, Detroit Tigers Manager Jim Leyland and Tigers hitting coach Gene Lamont.
George Kalafatis was drafted in 1963 by the Detroit Tigers following an impressive run with LIU’s baseball team. But Kalafatis never actually made it to the major leagues. Instead, he left his imprint on the game that he loved so much in another way. He became a sports agent and helped to advance the cause of free agency in the game while also representing many former professional players — including Mike Hargrove, manager of the Cleveland Indians and former legendary Boston Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice.
It has been 18 years since Kalafatis died suddenly due to a heart-related condition in his Ohio home. “George Kalafatis may not have intended on being a leader, but he certainly became on,” Leyland said. “He had the willingness to switch careers, once he figured out that a major league career just wasn’t a possibility.”
And Kalafatis reached major heights in professional baseball, he never forgot getting his start at LIU. “His passion was to play baseball and he also appreciated the education he received,” said Fran Kalafatis, who was married to the late sports agent.
Leyland, who has been involved in professional baseball for 50 years, took notice of his late teammate’s approach to the game. “George had the foresight to not put all his eggs in one basket,” said Leyland. “George looked beyond the glory of baseball.” Leyland then directed a comment towards the LIU athletes in attendance. “Most of you are not going to be professional athletes,” he explained. “So enjoy the moments you are experiencing now, such as the teamwork and competition.”
When asked, what Kalafatis say to the athletes of today, Leyland respond: “He would say, ‘Don’t panic in the big situations. Remain relaxed and at ease; just concentrate on the goal.’”