BY JUSTIN ELLIS, Sports Editor
George Kalafatis was a husband, father, friend and is considered by most, the greatest baseball player in LIU history. On Aug. 23, 2013 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-teammate Eugene Spatz, Detroit Tigers Manager Jim Leyland and Hitting Coach Gene Lamont, also came for the event.
George Kalafatis was drafted by the Detroit Tigers after his impressive performance on LIU’s baseball team in 1963. However his career path didn’t go as planned; Kafatis never made it to the major leagues, but he still left his imprint on the game he loved so much. He became a sports agent and helped give the gift of free agency to the game, and had the opportunity to represent many professional players such as Mike Hargrove, manager of the Cleveland Indians and former Boston Red Sox player, Jim Rice.
It has been 18 years since Kalafatis unexpectedly passed due to a heart related condition in his Ohio home. Although they visited LIU to pay respects, the baseball legends also reminded the student athletes present to be leaders. Jim Leyland said, “George Kalafatis may not have intended on being a leader, but he certainly became one. He had the willingness to switch careers, once he figured out that a major league career just wasn’t a possibility.”
George Kalafatis may have loved baseball and made it his life, yet he understood the importance of learning. “His passion was to play baseball and he also appreciated the education he received,” said Fran Kalafatis, the wife of the late sports agent.
Leyland who has been involved in professional baseball for 50 years, took notice of his teammate’s approach to the game of baseball. “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 he said, “Most of you are not going to be professional athletes, so enjoy the moments you are experiencing now, such as the teamwork and competition.”
When asked, what would George say to the athletes of today Leyland responded, “He would say don’t panic in the big situations. Remain relaxed and at ease, just concentrate on the goal.”