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Team Donates to Youth-Minded Program

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Angels are bringing the acclaimed Reviving Baseball in the Innercities (RBI) program to Orange County, joining local Boys and Girls Clubs in providing baseball and classroom instruction this spring for up to 300 children.

The RBI program, established in 1989 in Los Angeles and since expanded nationally, aims to revive baseball in urban areas, where top athletes now migrate to football and basketball. The program also provides tutoring, college preparation and anti-gang and anti-drug education.

“We’re honored to be able to launch this RBI program in Orange County,” said Dennis Bickmeier, the Angels’ manager of community relations. “We’re looking forward to bringing this to the kids of Orange County.”

The Angels’ charitable foundation provided $150,000 to launch the program, enough to fund baseball and softball leagues--all free to participating youths--through Boys and Girls Clubs in Anaheim, Brea, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, La Habra, Santa Ana and Stanton. The Angels also plan to host clinics for participants at Edison Field and send players to visit RBI sites.

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The Angels hope to expand the program to the entire county, Bickmeier said, with assistance from players and corporate sponsors. Dodger pitcher Kevin Brown, who signed a $105-million contract in December, made a $1-million donation to the Los Angeles RBI program last month.

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When spring training opens next month, Angel shortstop Gary DiSarcina will happily cede his leadership role to newcomer Mo Vaughn.

“It’s Mo Vaughn’s clubhouse. I’m serious,” DiSarcina said at the Orange County sports newsmakers luncheon Tuesday at the Arrowhead Pond. “You don’t pay a guy $80 million to hit home runs. You pay a guy $80 million to do it all.”

Although DiSarcina and outfielder Tim Salmon command enormous respect within the clubhouse, neither felt comfortable with the vocal leadership that comes so naturally to Vaughn.

“The happiest guy on our team right now is Tim Salmon,” DiSarcina said.

“Mark my words: This will be his career year. There’s no more pressure for him to have to go out there and lead. This should be his all-star year. I’m banking on it.”

If Salmon exceeds his usual high standards, pity the pitchers in the American League. Salmon, perhaps the best player never to appear in the All-Star Game, led the Angels in home runs last year for an unprecedented fourth consecutive season. Over those four seasons, he has averaged .302 with 29 homers and 105 runs batted in.

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Where might Dave Hollins play this season?

“I was going to play first,” Hollins said, grinning mischievously, “until they signed some guy this winter.”

With Vaughn at first and four outfielders--Salmon, Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad and Jim Edmonds--to fill the outfield and designated-hitter spots, Hollins might have to beat out phenom Troy Glaus at third base. The Angels replaced Hollins with Glaus last season, but the rookie hit .218 and struck out 51 times in 165 at-bats.

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If Hollins shows he has recovered from shoulder surgery, and if the Angels do not trade one of their outfielders, they could trade Hollins during spring training. Hollins believes the Angels should advance to the playoffs and said he would like to stick around, but the club does not relish the thought of paying $2.4 million to a bench player.

“They know I want to play,” Hollins said. “If I’m not going to play, I probably won’t be here.”

Angel Notes

The Angels signed pitcher Steve Sparks to a one-year contract for $1.35 million, resolving the team’s last potential salary arbitration case and increasing the 1999 player payroll to $50.6 million, with the only unsigned players subject to renewal at the Angels’ option. In his five-year tenure, General Manager Bill Bavasi has settled every potential arbitration case before a hearing. Sparks went 9-4 with a 4.34 earned-run average last season. . . . The Angels signed Mark Petkovsek, who went 7-4 with a 4.77 ERA for St. Louis last season, for $800,000. The New York Mets signed Allen Watson, who went 6-7 with a 6.04 ERA for the Angels last season, for $750,000. . . . Bavasi said the Angels refuse to submit to the latest trend among free-agent superstars: getting your millions and then getting perks like hotel suites on trips and charter flights for your family. “Believe me, they’ve been asked for,” Bavasi said. “If they want to negotiate for it, ask for more money and pay for it yourself. I think that’s real divisive in the clubhouse.”

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