JOHN KOVACH | Colleges Vienna's Argeras has Olympic softball opportunity
JAMAICA, N.Y. -- Alesha Argeras is as American as mom, Chevrolet and apple pie.
Yet the Vienna High graduate and senior second baseman on the St. John's University softball team may be representing the country of Greece in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece.
How can this be?
It is because of her Greek heritage and versatile playing ability -- and the fact that Greece has no softball team because the sport is new to that country.
Argeras was one of 12 players with family ties to Greece selected from a field of 33 candidates to the Greek Olympic softball team, after four days of tryouts at the International Softball Federation's world headquarters in Plant City, Fla.
The ISF is helping the Greek (Hellenic) Softball Federation to develop national and Olympic softball teams, and to prepare for its role as host of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
These 12 players will join three Greek players to be added from tryouts in Athens in late September, forming the Greek national softball team.
The 15-player squad will next meet in Tempe, Ariz., from Jan. 2-8, 2003, to begin preparing for the 2003-04 Greek national team training schedule.
Grandparents are links
Argeras, the daughter of Darlene and Samuel Argeras of Vienna, said her grandparents' links to Greece qualified her for the tryouts.
"Both of my father's parents are from Greece. My grandmother [Elena] was born in Greece and my grandfather [Fotes] was not born in Greece but is 100 percent Greek," explained Argeras, who has a younger sister, Joanne.
"I actually never met my grandmother. She died when my father was very young. My grandfather is still living and lives in my house with my family in Vienna."
Argeras (5-5 130), entering her fourth year as a starter at second base for St. John's, said she heard about the Greek Olympic opportunity from a recruiter.
"About six months ago, my parents got a phone call from a Greek recruiter, and he put the word into our ear, and then we looked into the information on the Internet," said Argeras. "So I sent in my video and resume and then I got an e-mail from the [ISF] committee at Plant City that I was going to be invited to the tryouts. I paid for the airplane [ticket]. They paid the expenses there."
Tryouts were tough
"The tryouts were very, very intense from 9-5:30 at the softball fields. The weather in Florida was 95 [degrees] every day and the humidity was awful," said Argeras. "We played an 11-inning game every day and we also had drills fielding and hitting there every day for about eight hours."
She believes there were several reasons why she made the team, after undergoing a summer of intensive rehabilitation from knee surgery in June. She also had hip surgery as a sophomore.
"I think the biggest factor was my experience and the way I carry myself of the field," said Argeras. "I play with a lot of confidence. I also play at a Division I college, and I had a good tryout and I showcased my skills well while I was there."
In addition, "I'm pretty much a well-rounded player. I can play any position in the infield -- shortstop, second and third bases -- and the coaches like that I am versatile."
Last spring, Argeras batted .206 with 34 hits, including eight doubles, in 165 at-bats, with 16 runs and 12 RBIs, as St. John's posted a 23-30-1 record, including 5-13 in the Big East.
In her sophomore year, she led the Red Storm in batting average with .259.
Also a good defensive player, Argeras had a .972 fielding average last spring with 109 putouts, 97 assists and six errors in 212 chances. For her career, she has a .970 fielding percentage in 146 games.
Argeras was groomed to play softball from the age of 6. She began to play competitively at 11 when she joined the Class Act traveling team based in Lordstown. Later, she joined Maddogs traveling team out of Alliance, staying with the team until she was 18.
Poole showed the way
She credits her Maddogs' coach, Ron Poole, for helping her to develop as a player.
"He taught me everything I know," she said.
Argeras also became friends with Poole's daughter, Leslie, who also was on the Maddogs' team. Leslie is now pitching for Fresno State.
"The summer ball [Maddogs' team] was real close. Six players still stay in contact," said Argeras, whose coach at Mathews High was Glen Rowland.
Argeras also excels academically at St. John's with a 3.92 grade-point average majoring in mathematics.
"I plan on being a high school math teacher," she said.