- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 9, 2005

BALTIMORE — The decision yesterday by the International Olympic Committee to drop baseball from the 2012 Olympics did not sit well with Baltimore Orioles B.J. Surhoff and Todd Williams, who have fond memories of playing for the United States.

Baseball and softball, which will remain on the program for the 2008 Beijing Games, are the first sports eliminated from the Olympics since polo in 1936.

“It stinks. I’m not happy,” said Surhoff, who hit .303 for the U.S. squad that finished second in 1984. “There are a lot of baseball tournaments but none any bigger in the eyes of the world than the Olympics.”

Surhoff has played baseball at all levels, but he said nothing topped playing for the United States.

“Guys who haven’t had the chance to play for their country, it’s a lot different,” he said. “It’s the same game but different.”

Said Williams, who won a gold medal in 2000: “It was an unbelievable experience for me. The competition was more intense than anything I’ve ever been in.”

Williams went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA over five innings and earned the win in the semifinal game against South Korea. Seven years from now, however, no one will have a chance to experience similar success in London.

“I don’t think it’s a good thing,” Williams said.

All is not lost, because the sport could return to the Olympics in 2016.

“I would be in favor of lobbying to bring it back,” Surhoff said.

Williams hopes the Olympic Committee will monitor the success of the World Baseball Classic, a 16-nation tournament that will begin in March and feature players on big league rosters.

“Maybe that will bring back the interest,” the right-hander said.

Sosa at DH

Sammy Sosa will be spending a lot more time at designated hitter, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Sosa played in right field for much of the first three months of the season, but he has been slumping lately, so Mazzilli has used him exclusively as a designated hitter since July 1.

“I think he feels he’s going to be stronger DHing,” the manager said. “If that’s what’s going to take him over the top, that’s fine by me.”

It’s also OK with Sosa.

“We talked about that. It’s something he feels as well,” Mazzilli said. “We’re both in agreement. Let’s put it that way.”

Sosa, who got his first RBI since June 19 on Thursday night, entered last night’s game batting .230.

Fasano shines

The solid play of Sal Fasano has made it easier for the Orioles to cope with the absence of catcher Javy Lopez, who has been sidelined since May 24 with a broken hand.

Fasano has been efficient behind the plate and in the batter’s box. He had six homers in only 90 at-bats through Thursday.

“Sal has done a wonderful job for us,” Mazzilli said. “He has tough shoes to fill.”

Fasano is not to be confused with Lopez, who has played in three All-Star Games. But he has performed admirably in his place.

“He’s handled the pitching staff,” Mazzilli said. “We’re not relying on Sal to carry the club offensively, but he’s contributed well.”

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