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No celebrity status

Mussina just another face in his hometown
Friday October 26, 2001

MONTOURSVILLE, Pa. (AP) -- He still pops into DeSanto Subs, a hoagie shop owned by a friend.

Mike Mussina might have an $88.5 million contract and play for the New York Yankees, but when he's back home he's just part of the town.

"Honestly," said Ellie Mussina, his mother, "he's not even a celebrity."

Mussina carries a lot of star power across the major leagues. However, in this town of 4,777, neighbors are not wowed by the 32-year-old pitcher who will open the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night.

Mostly, they've grown used to him. He never really left the place where he grew up. He lives a few miles from his parents with his wife, Jana, and their two children, in a secluded house in the middle of 100 acres.

Denny DeSanto owns the hoagie shop where Mussina stops by for cheesesteaks in the offseason.

"He likes to be here with the people he's been around," DeSanto said.

DeSanto says people paid more attention to Mussina in his first few professional seasons than they do now even though he is now an important part of the Yankees.

"Anybody who ever wanted an autograph probably got it years ago," said his mother, a registered nurse.

Each winter, Mussina opens his private training camp to promising athletes from the area. He helped his friend Mark Molesky coach the high school basketball team for a couple of seasons.

He has been slightly less visible since he and Jana, who also went to Montoursville Area High School, married and had kids, DeSanto said.

Still, he contributes often, donating money and offering time here and there. Not long ago, he provided funds for lights at Lyter Field, home to the Montoursville Little League.

Ron Aderhold remembers the grim days of 1996. Sixteen students from Montoursville and five chaperones died aboard TWA Flight 800. Mussina came home to help console relatives and friends of the victims.

"He stays involved," said Aderhold, who owns a baseball card shop in town. "We're all really excited for him. We want him to bring back that ring."

Mussina spent 10 seasons with the Orioles before signing a six-year, free-agent deal with the Yankees in the offseason. Some in Montoursville said it was just a matter time before their favorite son made it to the World Series.

"Mike always had it all -- he was gifted with incredible talent," said Mussina's high-school pitching coach, Fred Springman. "He wanted a shot at a ring, he signed with the Yankees. And now he's got his chance."

Mussina's 3.15 ERA this season was second best in the American League. His career winning percentage is right up there with the likes of Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and teammate Roger Clemens.

But many in Montoursville know him as the kid who kicked for the high school football team, the Montoursville Warriors, and scored 1,455 career points for the basketball team.

"He's a nice guy and people pretty much leave him alone when they see him these days," said Lloyd Burger, a 59-year-old barber whose shop on Broad Street is down few blocks from the law office of Mussina's father.

"I think everybody here is really proud, but they don't really give him the star treatment, wouldn't you agree, Lloyd?" said Charles Heaps, a 68-year-old retired Lutheran minister.

"I think that's why he still lives here," said Burger, who cut Mussina's hair when he was home during summers from Stanford. "He couldn't really get around in New York the way he can here."


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