SAN DIEGO -- The All-Star Game means different things to different people, especially the three very different people who will represent the Orioles tonight in the 63rd All-Star Game at Jack Murphy Stadium.
To Mike Mussina, who earned a spot on the All-Star pitching staff in his first full major-league season, it is a coming of age.
To Brady Anderson, who also will be making his first All-Star appearance, it is homecoming.
To Cal Ripken, who will play in the All-Star Game for the 10th straight year, it is another jewel in the crown.
"They are all special," said Ripken, who was the MVP of last year's game at SkyDome in Toronto. "Last year was the best I've performed in the All-Star Game. Before, after, it was a storybook thing. It would be hard to duplicate that. I certainly won't be coming in with the same momentum I had last year, but I'm looking forward to playing in the game."
His two young teammates also are looking forward to it, though neither has any idea of what to expect. It is only an exhibition game, but it will be watched by tens of millions of baseball fans around the world. It is the best against the best, and this year several of the best are from Baltimore.
That is just a minor subplot in Southern California, where the major story line is the reunion of the four players from the blockbuster trade of 1990. The San Diego Padres traded second baseman Roberto Alomar and outfielder Joe Carter to the Toronto Blue Jays for first baseman Fred McGriff and shortstop Tony Fernandez at the 1990 winter meetings. They are all here.
The pitching matchup is interesting, too. Texas Rangers 14-game winner Kevin Brown has earned the starting assignment in his first All-Star appearance. Atlanta Braves left-hander Tom Glavine, the National League Cy Young Award winner last year, will start his second consecutive All-Star Game, becoming the first NL pitcher to start in back-to-back years since Hall of Famer Robin Roberts started in 1953, 1954 and 1955.
Then there is the annual controversy over the players who were not chosen, most notably major-league RBI leader Cecil Fielder and former Orioles catcher Mickey Tettleton.
"There are a whole bunch of people who deserve to be here," AL manager Tom Kelly said, "but it isn't possible to fit everyone onto the roster. We all know that. We did the best we could do to represent the American League, the best we could and entertain the people who are going to watch the game."
No one was complaining in Baltimore after Kelly chose Mussina, who finished the first half with a 9-3 record and a 2.40 ERA that tied him for fourth in the league.
He was still in the minor leagues at this time last year. He was called up July 30, when the Orioles purged three pitchers -- Jeff Robinson, Jeff Ballard and Paul Kilgus -- and turned the rotation over to the youth. Mussina pitched very well down the stretch and opened the 1992 season with eight victories in his first nine decisions.
"You look around the clubhouse and see [Paul] Molitor and The Rocket [Roger Clemens] and a lot of guys I've been watching on TV," Mussina said. "Now I'm sitting on the team bus with them and I'm going to be sitting next to them in the dugout. It's going to be neat.
"I don't know if I belong with these guys. This is a different level than even playing in the major leagues. I'm in the big leagues, and I'm not even sure I belong there."
There were those who weren't sure that Anderson belonged in the big leagues after a series of disappointing seasons, but he has proven them wrong and he has come home to roost.
He grew up in nearby Poway and played college baseball at the University of California Irvine, a school that recently dropped its baseball program. The Orioles seemed close to dropping Anderson a couple of times over the past few years, but manager Johnny Oates gambled on his substantial talent and handed him the full-time leadoff job this year. Now he has returned to the San Diego area triumphant.
"It's awesome," Anderson said, "but I think it's more being in the All-Star Game than being in San Diego."
Anderson has tried to remain low-key all season. He is one of the surprise players of 1992, but he has carried himself like a player who knew all along that he would succeed as soon as he got a chance to play regularly for an extended period. He continues to downplay his dramatic turnaround, but he cannot totally hide his excitement.
"He's pretty charged up," Ripken said. "There's a great deal of excitement and he doesn't know what to expect. He's been doing such a super job, he's the one coming in with a lot of momentum. He's got a lot of confidence. It has been a lot of fun watching him."
Ripken is the only one of the three Orioles representatives who is guaranteed a chance to play. He was the top vote-getter in either league, with 2,699,773 votes. He played almost the entire game last year and should see at least five innings of action today. Detroit's Travis Fryman is the only backup shortstop on the AL squad.
Anderson probably will get into the game in the late innings. Mussina is one of seven starting pitchers on the AL staff, so he doesn't figure to pitch more than one inning, if at all. He'll be well rested, since he hasn't pitched in six days, but he doesn't expect to be very relaxed.
"I might be scared to death by game time," he said. "If they ask me to pitch, it may be worse. Hopefully, I'll be able to throw it to the catcher and maybe over that white thing."