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IT FEELS LIKE OCTOBER AS PLAYERS HEAD HOME

SHARE IT FEELS LIKE OCTOBER AS PLAYERS HEAD HOME

Tony Gwynn and David Justice talked about tee times. Todd Zeile and Tom Pagnozzi planned a plane flight. Deion Sanders and Jose Rijo got ready to relax.

With a strike about to start, it was more like October than mid-August at ballparks Thursday as players packed their bags, traded phone numbers and set up travel arrangements."It feels like the end of a season," Cincinnati's Barry Larkin said. "There's that ambiguity. We don't know when we'll be coming back or if we'll be coming back. It feels like . . . we don't know."

The strike deadline was today. Ozzie Guillen, like many others, already had plans to go away. The White Sox shortstop joked about going home to Caracas and selling maracas.

Cubs reliever Dan Plesac said he would take a few days off before working to stay in shape.

"I'll probably make a tour of the county fairs and go to the speed pitch so I can get my throwing in," he said.

Sanders, who does not plan to play in the NFL this year, might still see some football games - as a fan.

"What do they call that, tailgating? I'll probably be the most recognized tailgater ever," he said.

Rijo, his Reds teammate, may not even be that active.

"I'm going to eat a lot of potato chips and popcorn and hope I don't get too bad out of shape," he said.

Once a strike starts, players will be allowed in their clubhouse to pick up personal belongings, but not any equipment.

Players whose teams are on the road had to make their own plans to get home. The New York Mets, who were supposed to be on a seven-game trip, found they only had meal money for four days - through Thursday.

Cardinals players scrambled to put together a charter flight back to St. Louis after Thursday night's game in Miami. Team management earlier had agreed to fly the players home, but team president Stuart Meyer on Wednesday said the club wouldn't provide transportation.

Zeile, the Cardinals player representative, and Pagnozzi, the assistant rep, set up a DC-9 charter for the players. The cost, including relatives, was $18,000 - $600 per person. The players' union will pick up part of the cost.

"The higher priced players are going to pick up more of the tab compared to the younger guys," Pagnozzi said. "My suggestion is if you make a million or more, you've got to pay. If you make a million or less, you're freeloading."

Toronto played in New York on Thursday, and was scheduled to face the Yankees again today. But Blue Jays shortstop Dick Schofield said he would stick around if there was a strike.

"New York's a great city," the Blue Jays shortstop said. "I just want to take in the city for a few days."

Gwynn and Justice said they would spend their free time on the golf course.

"I want to get as good as Freddie (McGriff)," said Justice, whose Atlanta Braves played in Colorado on Thursday before heading home.

"I know I'll be golfing tomorrow," Gwynn said.

Gwynn and the San Diego Padres played in Houston on Thursday, then were scheduled to return home. But a flat tire on their airplane delayed the trip.

Boston's Tom Brunansky was ready to leave Baltimore and head to a family gathering in Michigan.

"Guys were saying, `Talk to you over the winter,"' he said. "It's like a shutdown mode."