Game can be an awe, shucks experiencce Players face event with nerves, dread

July 11, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

The All-Star Game inspires equal parts awe, fear and, in some cases, even dread among baseball's rank and file.

Wade Boggs calls it "three days of bedlam." Paul Molitor shakes his head when he recalls the "50 dozen balls and 300 bats" that are waiting on the clubhouse table to be signed. Harold Reynolds remembers the case of nerves he had at his first All-Star outing.

Then there is Mickey Tettleton's glazed-eye recollection of his lone All-Star experience in 1989 while a member of the Orioles.

"I had Wade Boggs on one side of my locker and Don Mattingly on the other," said Tettleton, now with the Detroit Tigers. "I'm sitting there, going back and forth, trying to get as much out of these guys as I can.

"There is a feeling of awe. It's on TV all over the place, there are 60,000-some people in Anaheim and you're out there with the best players in the game. It's a great feeling, something you always remember."

The All-Star Game is coming Tuesday to Camden Yards, where the memories are waiting to happen. Cal Ripken already has more than most All-Stars. The Orioles shortstop will be playing in his 11th straight game, starting for the 10th straight year. And, yes, he says it's still fun meeting and greeting all these one-time teammates.

"The experience is so great," Ripken said. "You only know players as opponents. During the season, you don't have time to do those things [get to know opposing players]. You enjoy that part. The talent is so phenomenal, it's exciting."

Like Ripken, Boggs is a perennial All-Star. This will be his ninth game, and his seventh straight as the starter at third base. Now a New York Yankee, Boggs says the best part of the All-Star experience is "being recognized as one of the best. There are only 28 of us [per league]. If you're picked into that 28, it says a lot about your ability."

But the All-Star Game is not all fun and games. There are increasing demands on players' time and their penmanship. There are travel accommodations and family considerations. There are media interviews and throngs of fans to wade through at the hotel. It's not always easy and seldom relaxing, says Molitor, the Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter, selected for the sixth time.

"The last few times I've gone, no question the demands on players seem to have been heightened," Molitor said. "At a time of year, particularly when you're older, where those three days are important to try to regenerate for the second half, you find yourself coming out of the All-Star experience somewhat drained. But I would never turn down an opportunity to go to one for that reason. I still think it's great."

Lou Whitaker of the Tigers isn't so sure. He's been to four All-Star extravaganzas and turned down two more. He scratched from the 1987 game in Oakland and the 1989 game in Anaheim, Calif., primarily for travel reasons.

"I had two All-Star years that I was so fed up with it," he said. "I had just come off a long road trip, went back to Detroit and had to go all the way back across the country to Oakland. I just didn't want to go."

Whenever Whitaker's gone, though, it's been memorable. He tripled in his All-Star debut in 1983, doubled a year later and homered off Dwight Gooden in the Houston Astrodome in 1986. In 1985 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, he had to fashion a makeshift uniform after he left his at home.

"Everything was packed up, and I already had my equipment bag in the car," he said. "Then I decided to drive another car [to the airport]. You're trying to go somewhere, take the family, too, and it's all rush, rush."

Whitaker's reluctance to go in 1987 opened the door for the first of Reynolds' two All-Star appearances. Then with the Seattle Mariners, Reynolds replaced ailing starter Willie Randolph after two innings and played the rest of the game, won by the National League, 2-0, in 13 innings.

The Orioles second baseman remembers feeling the pressure of a scoreless game. "It was the 11th inning, we're on defense and they have the bases loaded," Reynolds said. "I'm like, 'I don't want to boot a ball right here.' That thought comes across your mind.

"I remember after I played in that game, I didn't get nervous for a [regular-season] game at all the following year. There's nothing to get nervous about after that."

When Tettleton was selected in 1989, he, too, was jittery.

"I remember something Cal Jr. told me on our way out there," Tettleton said. "He told me, 'The object is not to do good, but don't screw up.' "

The problem of dodging fans is almost as daunting. Tigers shortstop Travis Fryman, who was a first-time All-Star a year ago, was amazed by the "hordes of people" at the hotel. "You couldn't step out of the hotel without being mobbed," he said. "I didn't realize it was such a big spectacle, but it really is."

And it's a bigger problem for the annual All-Stars, the players most easily recognizable.

"It takes a special type guy to deal with it all," Reynolds said. "I don't think people comprehend what Cal goes through. You're talking about a two- or three-day event. But for him, that's every day. Guys get to experience at the All-Star Game what Michael Jordan, Cal, somebody like that, go through for a whole season. It's really hard to comprehend."

Boggs said the honor of going to the All-Star Game far outweighs the disadvantages, though. "You deal with the crowds, you deal with the people," he said.

Would he ever consider skipping an invitation?

"No, never," he said. "It's a tremendous honor. And everybody treats it like that."

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