Ari Sechopoulos ’20 has an old-school soul.
In a culture that demands immediate gratification and athletes transfer from one university to another as often as they change their shoes, the College of Charleston first baseman is an exception to the norm: While, over the past three years, more than 3,000 college baseball players have transferred from one school to another in search of more playing time or a better opportunity to showcase their skills, Sechopoulos has remained a steadfast Cougar – even after he earned his degree in accounting in 2020.
When he graduated, the hard-hitting first baseman was coming off a strong, albeit COVID-shortened, season that saw him hit .360 with 20 RBIs in just 14 games. With his degree in hand and an impressive résumé at the plate, Sechopoulos still had a year of eligibility remaining. He could have tipped his hat to the College, entered the NCAA’s transfer portal and gone to just about any Power Five school in the country.
“When Ari is clicking on all cylinders, I don’t know that there’s a more feared hitter in our league,” says Cougars baseball Head Coach Chad Holbrook. “There’s not a school in the country that wouldn’t have jumped to sign Ari.”
But the thought of leaving the Cougars never entered Sechopoulos’ mind. The Windsor, Ontario, native wasn’t about to turn his back on the program that believed in him when
“I’m a big loyalty guy,” says Sechopoulos, who decided to stick around and is now working on his master’s degree in accounting at the College. “I knew there would be calls, opportunities, to play for bigger programs. This place is special. I love this university. I couldn’t have picked a better place to go to college and play baseball.”
Born in Uruguay to a Canadian mother and a Greek father, Sechopoulos spoke only Spanish until he was a toddler. In 2002, Sechopoulos’ father, Panos, sold his construction business and moved his family to the Canadian province near Detroit.
The young Sechopoulos adapted to his new surroundings quickly. In a matter of days, he went from speaking only Spanish to only English, and never looked back.
“The story is that I went to school one day, and I came home and I only spoke English from that point on,” he says.
In a hockey-mad country, Sechopoulos gravitated to baseball. He joined a local youth league team and by the time he was in middle school, he had started to take part in travel league tournaments. He was later spotted by coaches for the Great Lake Canadians, one of the elite travel teams in Canada.
It was at a tournament in Florida that Sechopoulos caught the eye of the College’s coaching staff. While the rest of his Canadian teammates made their way back north, Sechopoulos and his father toured the CofC campus, where he was offered a scholarship.
“By the time I left Charleston, I had made up my mind,” he says.
Sechopoulos came to the Lowcountry with the reputation as a defensive specialist but quickly proved to be equally effective at the plate.
“Ari has spent countless hours in the batting cage working on his craft,” Holbrook says.
After a solid freshman season, Sechopoulos was invited to try out for the Greek National Team. Over the years, his father had made sure that Sechopoulos had a strong connection to Greece – and so the offer appealed to him. And the Greek team was happy to have him – especially since, that summer, he helped lead it to a second-place finish in the European Championship qualifier.
This summer, Sechopoulos hopes to embark on the beginning of a long professional baseball career.
“Ari has a chance to play at the next level,” Holbrook says. “He just needs someone to believe in him and give him the opportunity.”
Just like the College did.
Editor’s Note: In June of 2021, Sechopoulos joined the San Marino baseball club, a professional team based in Italy.
Photo by Mike Ledford