Peter Balis was born in Sparta, Greece. His family immigrated to the west side of Chicago when he was 4 years old. He went to Chicago Public Schools, and learned how to play sports by emulating what he watched on TV. The first organized sport he played was 6 th grade basketball at Holy Trinity. If the church didn’t have a gym, he honestly wouldn’t have spent much time there. If anyone was looking for him during those years they could find him competing at his playground or at the Holy Trinity gym. It was clear early on that Peter was a competition junkie and destined to become a gym and/or field rat.
His childhood dream was to become a Major League baseball player. That said, he never played little league baseball; the first time he played organized baseball was during freshman tryouts at Lane Tech High School. Lane had great teams and during his senior year they competed in the City Championships that were played at Old Comiskey Park (Home of the White Sox).
He never tried out for or played high school basketball. Instead, he was fortunate to have met mentors at age 15 that are probably most responsible for Peter playing professionally in Greece. Tom Williams was a Chicago cop and Mitch Chuck was the AD at Orr High School. Both saw something in Peter, and they let him fill in on the men’s league teams they ran. At first, the lumps he received from all the great players he played against were humbling, and extremely frustrating. As he got older, bigger, stronger, and smarter, he evolved from a fill-in player to a regular on those teams. Peter began dishing out his own lumps to some of those same guys as the years passed! He was always a student of the sports he played, but the basketball / life lessons that he gained during his teen and adolescent years were a blessing. He learned what it took to prepare for competition, and what you had to do mentally and physically to win. Peter can’t thank Tom and Mitch enough for the impact they made on his life!!
He was a late-bloomer, and not recruited by any big college programs. He paid his own way throughcollege, with only one goal….fulfill his little kid dream of professional baseball. Most of his college career was spent at North Park College in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. While there Peter played baseball, basketball, soccer, and in his senior year, he was the place kicker for an 0 – 9 football team!!!
At the end of his college career, Peter was drafted by the Cleveland Indians and competed in their minor league system. His road to the Big Leagues was cut much shorter than he ever expected. He was released and didn’t know what his next move was going to be. A month later, he was contacted by the head basketball coach of Olimpiakos, Steve (Young) Yiatzoglou. Steve was a superstar player in Greece and gave Peter his first shot. Playing for Olimpiakos his rookie season was a whirlwind. Steve was a warrior when he played, and he coached with that same mentality, perfectly aligned with Peter’s style.
He was also fortunate that one of his Chicago heroes Kirk Vidas, took him under his wing that year. One of the most mind boggling parts of his rookie year experience was competing against Kirk (Ilisiakos) and Danny Nikitas (Apollon Patras). 3 Greek kids from Chicago were competing professionally in Greece’s A1 Basketball League…truly awesome!
His career in Greece spanned 10 years. The majority of those years spent with Panionios, which included multiple seasons competing in Europe’s Korac Cup Championship; one year advancing to the Elite 8. The climax of Peter’s athletic career was winning the Greek Cup in 1991, which also gave Panionios an opportunity to compete in the European Cup Winners Championship the following 91-92 season. His only goal during the trek overseas was to win a title, which was accomplished with those great Panionios teams.
Those years in Greece were special for many reasons. Peter played with and against great Greek, European, and NBA players. The list is way too long, but players like Nick Gallis, Fani Christodoulou, Toni Kukoc, Zarko Paspaliej, Dominique Wilkens, Eddie Johnson, Antonio Davis, etc. Peter was able to travel all over the world and experience different cultures first hand. These athletic experiences have made him who is today.
On a personal level, Peter has 4 adult children. Oldest daughter Taylor and her husband Chris Oakland live in the western suburbs of Chicago, and have blessed their family with two grandchildren, Nora and Charlie. His other daughter Arden lives and works in Dallas, TX, and two sons Vaughn and Alex live and work in Northern Virginia.