Erickson takes All-Star break in Tahoe |

Erickson takes All-Star break in Tahoe

Steve Yingling

Scott Erickson is one bird that likes to fly by night.

The Baltimore Orioles pitcher got the most out of his three-day All-Star break. Before catching a midnight flight back to Baltimore, Erickson, a part-time Zephyr Cove resident, played a practice round of golf Wednesday with three other celebrities who’ll participate in the Isuzu Celebrity Golf Championship.

“I enjoyed three days here in Tahoe. I’ll try to sleep on the plane a little bit and I’ll get into Baltimore at 12 o’clock and go straight to the field,” said Erickson, who is scheduled to pitch a Saturday afternoon game against Boston.

Erickson seemed comfortable playing with his celebrity companions, including former Oriole Bobby Grich, 1998 freestyle skiing gold medalist Jonny Moseley and former all-pro quarterback Neil Lomax. His drives approached 300 yards and he showed a nice touch around the greens.

“If I could stay, I could probably play in this event,” said Erickson, who is a 10 to 12 handicap.

But Erickson has more important business at hand. His Orioles, 38-50, are next to last in the Eastern Division, 26 games behind the first-place New York Yankees. However, the Orioles don’t need to overtake the Yankees to make the playoffs. Last year’s American League Championship Series participants trail the Boston Red Sox by 15 games in the wild-card chase.

“We’re a long way out, so we’re gonna have to work just to get to .500. That’s our first goal and then hope that some of the other teams don’t play as good of baseball as they did in the first half. If they drop off, maybe we’ll have a chance,” said Erickson, who leads the Orioles’ pitching staff with an 8-7 record and a 4.24 earned run average.

“We’ve got a good group of guys. Everybody’s comfortable with each other, but we’re just not jelling on the field.”

While his teammate Roberto Alomar was winning the MVP award in the American League’s 13-8 win over the National League in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night in Denver, Erickson had other things to do.

“I didn’t watch any of it. I was out having some fun, enjoying my time off,” Erickson said.

With baseball’s season always conflicting with the Tahoe tournament, Erickson’s debut will have to wait until retirement. He can’t wait.

“I’d like to be here, but unfortunately they’re making me go back,” Erickson said.

Welterweight boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya doesn’t plan on being only a gate attraction in his second celebrity championship.

After finishing 73rd with rounds of 95, 96 and 95 last year, De La Hoya made a last-minute tournament re-entry because of a fight cancellation and a welcomed change in his golf scores.

“My golf game is improving, and I’ve actually shaved off a few strokes since last year,” he said.

How many?

“I’m looking to be in contention,” De La Hoya responded.

As for his next opponent in the ring – Julio Cesar Chavez – De La Hoya plans to test his counterpart’s midsection.

“I’m not going to hit him to the face at all. I’m going to cut him to the body,” he predicted.

Former Pittsburgh Penguins center Dan Quinn, one of the most solid celebrity golfers around, says don’t be surprised if there is a new champion on Sunday.

And a longshot at that.

“I think John Elway could have a good year along with Trent Dilfer and the usual suspects: Rick Rhoden, Jack Wagner, John Brodie and myself,” said Quinn, who won the 1992 tournament and tied for second with Brodie last year. “I think Elway and Wagner are the dark horses this year. They are the people who have been close but maybe one of these times may fire through,” Quinn said.

At last report, Elway was 50-1 to win the tournament at Caesars Tahoe.

Isn’t this Elway’s year, anyway?

It’s also Quinn’s year since he and his fiance, Deby, are expecting their first child in October.

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