George Tsamis is quite used to winning – and playing baseball well into September. His teams have advanced to the postseason in six of the 12 seasons he has managed the St. Paul Saints, including 2004 when they rallied past Schaumburg to win a thrilling five-game title series. He also managed the New Jersey Jackals to back-to-back Northern League championships in 2001-02.
The hard-driving ex-big leaguer enters the 2015 season – his 13th as manager of the Saints and 16th overall – with a 618-542 regular season record. He became the all-time winningest manager in Saints history with an 8-3 victory over the Sioux City Explorers on July 27, 2007 at Midway Stadium. The victory marked the 265th in his Saints tenure, surpassing Marty Scott's 264 wins from 1995-2000. Tsamis earned win number 500 in his illustrious Saints career against that same Explorers club on July 21 in a 7-6 victory at Sioux City.
He also is in charge of player personnel, the same dual role he had in New Jersey, where he won a pair of Northern League post-season championships.
His formula for success is simple: "I want them to show up on time and play hard," said Tsamis. "We'll have fun. For a guy to be successful, you have to have fun playing."
There has been more fun than not in Tsamis' years on the bench as evidenced by his career regular season won-loss mark of 801-710.
Success and Tsamis were linked from an early age. In 1979, the then 12-year-old left-hander played for the Campbell, Calif., team in a 2-1 extra-inning Little League World Series championship loss to Taiwan. He was the winning pitcher the day before when Campbell won the semifinals to claim the U.S. Championship.
The next year, his family moved to Clearwater, FL where baseball continued for Tsamis and his brothers – Bill and Nick – at Countryside High School. After a standout prep career, Tsamis received a scholarship to attend Stetson University in DeLand, FL. He helped the Hatters win consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference championships and set the single-season school mark with 130 strikeouts in 1989. He was named the conference's Player of the Year, a rarity for a pitcher.
After 26 years, Tsamis still stands third on the school's all-time single season strikeout list (130) and ranks tied for 12th in conference history just ahead of ex-Saint Mike Mimbs (who recorded 126 for Mercer in 1990.). His college career complete games mark of 25 is tied for tops in conference history while his 391.1 innings pitched is second. He is tied for fifth in wins (31) and strikeouts (350) and tied for sixth in games started (55). He is also among the leaders in many Stetson career categories including first in school history in complete games (25), second in strikeouts (350), third in victories with 31 and innings pitched (391.1) and tied for third in games started with 55. His 19 strikeouts (as a freshman!) against Bethune-Cookman on April 1, 1986 is still a school record.
Tsamis was drafted in the 33rd round by the Toronto Blue Jays after his junior season at Stetson, but elected to stay for his senior season. He went 11-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 1989 and the Minnesota Twins were impressed enough to draft him in the 15th round. He spent the next two years playing for the Visalia Oaks, the Twins' Single-A club, before reaching the Triple-A level in 1991 with the Portland Beavers. After posting a 23-12 record over two seasons there, in 1993, Minnesota promoted Tsamis and he made his Major League debut April 26. Used as a reliever, Tsamis earned a win and a pair of saves with the Twins that year.
Following his nine-year professional playing career where he registered a 57-31 minor league record, Tsamis became the pitching coach of the Waterbury (Conn.) Spirit in the renamed Northeast League and was promoted to the managerial role in 1999.
He spent two years there before moving to New Jersey in 2001 where he went 107-72 in the regular season and defeated Winnipeg in the league championship series both years there.