Not-Quite-Angels Open Camp : Baseball: It's a strange spring in Mesa as would-be players take the field while some real players look for odd jobs.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The left-hander who works in the car-detailing business zipped a fastball into the mitt of the Home Depot department manager Friday, and with that the Angels' 1995 spring training camp was in full swing.

Angel Manager Marcel Lachemann and his entire coaching staff, including Rod Carew and Rick Burleson, and General Manager Bill Bavasi and assistant general manager Tim Mead were all on the Gene Autry Park field as workouts for pitchers and catchers began, lending a major league air to the proceedings.

But one look at the roster, on which players were assigned numbers ranging from 41 to 90, indicated this was no big league camp.

"I've got a sheet with numbers that I'm trying to put to names," said Lachemann, starting his first full season as a manager. "That's not something I'd normally do."

Those high numbers weren't confined to Angel jerseys--they were also in many player biographies. Of 48 on the spring training roster, 13 are 30 or older.

Only seven have major league experience, combining to play in 184 games. But 125 of those appearances were made by 32-year-old pitcher Darrel Akerfelds, who spent parts of five seasons with four major league teams and played last season in Taiwan.

Fans who have followed Southern California high school and college baseball might remember a handful of current Angel players: Former Cal State Fullerton outfielders John Fishel and Chris Powell and pitchers Doug Robertson, Dion Beck and Tony Fetchel are on the team.

Other local products are catchers Ken Briggs (Foothill High, Chapman University) and David Liddell (Rubidoux High), pitchers Richard Doyle (Neff High), Leo Ramirez (South Gate High, Cal State Northridge) and Chris Gunnett (Ramona High), and outfielders Greg Shockey (Mater Dei High, Cal State Northridge), Demond Smith (Eisenhower High) and Pete Weber (UC Riverside).

"Everyone here wants to play in the big leagues," said Beck, who has spent most of the past seven years detailing cars. "It's terrible that I have to get my opportunity because of disagreements between players and owners, but that's not my concern."

Although Beck said he would have no problems being a replacement player, several others hedged when asked if they would cross a picket line to play for fear of being targeted by major leaguers.

"Until the season starts, I'm just a guy trying to get a job in the minor leagues," said 33-year-old catcher Phil Ouellette, who was working at a Home Depot in Cerritos until he impressed the Angels enough during a tryout camp to receive a contract offer.

As the aspiring Angels were completing their first workout, Mark Holzemer was reporting to his job as a car salesman in Gilbert, Ariz., just a few miles away.

If not for the baseball strike, Holzemer, an Angel pitcher who converted from starter to reliever during the off-season, would have been in camp Friday, stretching, running sprints and working on pickoff moves.

Instead, he spent the afternoon discussing air bags and anti-lock breaks and the standard features of various minivans, cars and trucks.

"I have to sell cars today, but I'd rather be out there running poles (sprints from one foul pole to another)," said Holzemer, a left-hander who is on the Angels' 40-man roster but has only 45 days of major league service.

It's players such as Holzemer and teammates Garret Anderson, one of the Angels' top outfield prospects who is working at a clothing store in Newhall, and Troy Percival, the team's bullpen stopper of the future who has a job lined up selling cars in Gilbert, who may be suffering most during the strike.

They're promising rookies who haven't made the big money in the big leagues yet, so they don't have a huge financial nest egg to fall back on. They have to sell cars or clothes or paint houses--anything to make ends meet.

"A lot of people have the perception that we're all rich and squabbling over millions of dollars, but there are guys who are struggling over this," Holzemer said.

Many players on the borderline between the majors and triple A also fear that the long layoff might stunt their progress, especially if they're not allowed to play in the minor leagues during the strike.

"It stinks for guys who are on the 40-man roster but not in the big leagues," said Anderson, who batted .385 in five games for the Angels last season. "We're missing out on development. You don't want to be sidetracked, but this is all for a good purpose in the long run."

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