Lisa Guerrero: Comeback or come back home
Tuesday, a pitcher who once signed a Major League Baseball contract for $32 million signed a $6,500 deal with Aguilas de Mexicali and was happy to do so.
That, of course, was after he was asked to try out. So he woke up at 5 a.m. on Tuesday and drove six hours to Calexico to prove he can still throw a baseball.
The man who tossed the first no-hitter in the Metrodome threw 40 pitches off the mound at El Nido Stadium to earn the privilege of starting his first game in more than three years. It will be this weekend against the Naranjeros de Hermosillo, and he'll take an eight-hour bus ride to get there.
The last time he earned a paycheck as a professional baseball player was in 2006. He was a New York Yankee.
For the last 24 months, he has been working his way back to the place where he can compete again as a starting pitcher, something he hasn't done since a frustrating and injury-plagued season in 2005 as a Dodger.
In the past, the goal was to get to the World Series. In fact, in 1991, he won one.
This time around he wants to reach the Caribbean World Series and earn an invitation to spring training.
As a sports fan, I understand how difficult this will be for a 40-year-old with a couple of surgeries under his belt and who had been bouncing around the league at the end of his career.
As his wife, I couldn't be prouder.
Right now, you may be sitting at your computer, rolling your eyes and grumbling about how these "old" athletes simply can't let go. Why don't they just retire, play golf and collect a pension? Do they need the money, the attention, the adrenaline rush?
Probably a lot of a little of all of the above.
Scott Erickson just loves to play baseball.
Truth is, if you could ditch your job, that suit and that computer for a chance to lace up your spikes, pull on your glove and play a game for a living, you'd do it so fast there would be a skid mark next to your desk.
Since 2006, Scott's been preparing for this last shot. He's been in the gym 2 1/2 hours a day, six days a week. He hasn't eaten cheese or butter, nor has he touched a French fry.
He has a MetRx shake every morning for breakfast and skips dessert at night. He's in better shape now than he was at 35, and has added another pitch to his arsenal.
Once a sinker/slider guy with a mid-90s fastball, Scott never had a changeup ... didn't need it. In the last year, while working out with the Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara baseball teams, he developed one, spending the last six months getting comfortable with his new grip.
His fastball has been gaining velocity recently, and by adding the changeup, he's hoping to fool batters better than he did in the past. We'll see.
He is thrilled.
So, Mexicali it is. I'll join him next week, and we'll be there until after the holidays. If we're lucky, we'll be there through the Caribbean World Series in January.
His 17-year career may end this month, once and for all, in an Aguilas uniform just south of the border.
Or it could be the first step on the long road north to a comeback.
-- Lisa Guerrero
Lisa Guerrero has covered Super Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series, along with the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys. As an actress, she has appeared on "Frasier" and "The George Lopez Show" and as Billy Baldwin's long-suffering wife in the film "A Plumm Summer," which she executive-produced.
Photo (top): Scott Erickson. Credit: Mark Duncan / Associated Press
photo (inset): Lisa Guerrero. Credit: Lisa Guerrero