Former Maverick player Darrel Akerfelds dies at 50
Jamie Hamilton remembered Darrel Akerfelds as a competitive baseball player, but more than that, as “a quality guy.”
Akerfelds, the bullpen coach for the San Diego Padres, died Sunday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 50.
Hamilton was an assistant coach at what was then Mesa College when Akerfelds pitched for the Mavericks in 1983 after two years at Arkansas.
“He was just a good man,” Hamilton said. “He was playing football (1980-81) and baseball (1981-82) at Arkansas and by luck of the draw he knew Mark Martinez was coming here after Trinidad. Byron (Wiehe) recruited Martinez, and Ak said, ‘I’m going to go there and play, too.’ He had played summer ball with Martinez.”
Akerfelds, an all-state football and baseball player at Columbine, was only at Mesa one year. The Seattle Mariners made him their No. 1 draft pick after his All-America season at Mesa.
Padres manager Bud Black called Akerfelds “an invaluable member of the Padres coaching staff.”
Akerfelds had been bullpen coach for San Diego since June 2001.
He was diagnosed with cancer in December 2010. Last season, Akerfelds attended 148 of 162 games despite undergoing chemotherapy. He was still with the team in the early part of this season before he stopped coming to the ballpark in mid-April.
He played professional baseball for 12 seasons and appeared in 125 Major League games. He was 9-10 with a 5.08 ERA pitching for Oakland, Cleveland, Texas and Philadelphia. Hamilton said Akerfelds threw a nasty, split-finger fastball that was too tough for small-college players.
“It took a few years to master in the big leagues, but against collegiate kids, throwing 95, it may go out of the strike zone, in the dirt, but it would take care of you. He was a competitor.”
Akerfelds went 10-3 and averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings for the Mavericks.
Hamilton recalled a practical joke some of his teammates played on Akerfelds.
“Some guys picked up his VW and moved it sideways over at the old fieldhouse,” Hamilton said, laughing at the memory. “It got stuck between cars and he couldn’t get it out. He got so mad, I thought he was gonna kill somebody. It was pretty funny.
“He was just a good guy.”