Three-year-old Cassandra Wiggins, wearing pony tails and a red dress, pulled open the refrigerator and produced a package of hot dogs.

"Daddy?" she asked, smiling and holding up her lunch.

Her father smiled, too, then filled a pan with water, turned on the range and dropped in two of the hot dogs. "It'll be a minute or two, baby," he told the child, who climbed into his arms and held onto his neck.

Alan Wiggins pointed toward the rear of the breezy, high-tech house where his other child, a 7-month-old son, was sleeping.

"Nothing is more important to me than being with my family," he said. "When I'm out playing golf in the morning, I can't wait to get back home so I can hear the kids laugh or cry or fight. That's just the way I am.

"I didn't have that last summer in Baltimore, and I was depressed and upset the whole time. Fans didn't see the true me. They saw a guy who didn't hustle, who dogged it down the line. They didn't see a guy thrown into a strange city without his family.

"I'm not that type player, and I'd never been that type player. I made errors, but I made them because my concentration wasn't there. I know people say, 'You're making this huge amount of money, and you should be happy.' I'm sorry, but life is not like that. I was depressed and playing that way was my way of expressing it."

He shifted uncomfortably and looked outside where his black Mercedes and his Blazer were parked. His house is tucked into a secluded, exclusive subdivision 16 miles from downtown San Diego and a short distance from the Rancho Penasquitos Country Club.

Wiggins had just returned from a morning workout with the Padres, and in giving his first lengthy interview in more than a year, clearly wanted baseball fans to understand what he went through in 1985.

He said loneliness made him a virtual recluse last summer, that he put a television in the bedroom of his rented Baltimore townhouse, stocked a refrigerator with yogurt, juices and Twinkies and stayed there.

"The one thing that made it bearable was how my teammates accepted me," he said. "I never told them, but I hope they know it. I couldn't have made it without them."

Movers are coming in a few weeks to box up the family's belongings and take them 2,500 miles east, to the Baltimore suburb in which Wiggins plans to make his home year round.

The move east will be symbolic, too. After a nine-year career that has seen him released by the California Angels and dumped by the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, that has seen him twice undergo treatment for chemical dependency, he hopes he has found a baseball home.

He is a history buff and recently attended a seminar on post-baseball careers. He can argue supply-side economics and theories on the economic consequences of being black in America.

Yet, when the subject turned to his troubled last 12 months, he admitted, "It has been an awful time. Worse than I ever thought anything could be."

Did he doubt he'd survive?

"No," he said, revealing some of the anger the Baltimore Orioles saw so much of last summer.

A year ago, he wouldn't have thought he would be giving this kind of interview because, a year ago, he appeared to have everything. He was coming off a season in which he had been perhaps the most valuable player for the National League-champion Padres. Not only that, he had a lovely wife who was pregnant, a beautiful new home in a North County Yuppie community and a new four-year, $2.8-million contract.

He had survived a rocky transition from the outfield to second base and, at 27, was one of baseball's brightest young stars, a pesky leadoff hitter who might have been the National League's answer to the Kansas City Royals' Willie Wilson.

Within six months after the World Series, however, Wiggins was again admitted to a center for chemical dependency, and when the problem was announced, Padres President Ballard Smith said Wiggins would not play another game for San Diego.

Wiggins said he realizes now that his career could have ended then. San Diego sources say no team offered anything of substance for him, and, in fact, only the Orioles, desperate for a second baseman and leadoff hitter, were willing to give him a chance. The price: Two minor leaguers and an agreement the Padres pay some of the contract if there were more drug problems.

The Orioles were hoping to get a man who could play a decent second base, but who would be such a good leadoff batter that no one would remember his defensive shortcomings.

Wiggins did hit .285 and steal 30 bases in 76 games, but he also was picked off nine times, several times when he appeared to be going through the motions. When he arrived in July, he was just another quiet ballplayer, but by September, his moods had grown darker. Not only was he refusing to run out ground balls, he retreated into such a shell that he seldom spoke to teammates or coaches and never to reporters.

Somewhere along the way, the Baltimore fans who had been so supportive in July began to boo his every move. There must have been doubts about him in the front office, too, because this winter the Orioles traded for one young second baseman (Rex Hudler) and signed another (Juan Bonilla).

On trial again, Wiggins said, "The only way anyone's going to get my job is if I don't show up. That's not going to happen. I'm optimistic. I wasn't in shape all last year, and it showed.

"First, I hurt my knee, then I had to take two months off (at the treatment center). I think I did pretty well under the circumstances. I had nothing in my legs and my stolen bases were all on technique. You've got to work hard in the winter to build up a reserve of strength, and when I came to the Orioles, I didn't have it."

He says he does now, driving into San Diego almost every day to lift leg weights, run sprints and take batting practice with his former teammates.

In a wide-ranging, 90-minute interview -- he said he still might not talk to the media again because "How many ways can you say the same thing?" -- he also talked about everything from the Orioles' new drug-testing program to his battle with addiction to his studies of Malcolm X and other black Americans.

His story is complex. He was raised by his mother in a middle-class Pasadena, Calif., neighborhood. She is now a registered nurse, but when he was growing up, Wiggins remembers her doing domestic work and getting by on a small salary and a welfare check.

"I wasn't the baby, but she treated me like the baby," he said. "She'd make my sisters or brothers go without so I could have a baseball glove or shoes or whatever I needed."

"We didn't have a lot of money, but we weren't poor. We had a three-bedroom house, and we always had food on the table."

About the time he was a senior in high school, he read an autobiography of Malcolm X, a book that opened up about a dozen emotional doors for him, and nine years later, he still recalls the rage it left in him.

"It's very hard for someone in my generation to understand this kind of racism," he said. "I wanted to say, 'Why do they put up with that?' I see now they put up with it for the same reasons the people in South Africa put up with it: They don't have a choice."

Since then, he has studied the lives of both Wallace and Elijah Muhammad, attended a couple of Muslim services and raised money to fight sickle cell anemia.

He's not certain how all of this has affected his baseball career, but he thinks it has. Certainly, it affected it in 1981 when he publicly labeled then-Hawaii Manager Doug Rader a racist.

Rader's response was to call Wiggins into his office, hand him a bat and say, "We're going to settle this before you leave."

Wiggins smiled when asked about the story.

"Yeah, something like that did happen," he said. "The thing is, Doug is a very smart person, but sometimes I would judge a person by how he walks or how he talks. You see a guy do things a certain way and you say, 'I'll bet he's a redneck.' "

On the subject of his drug addiction, Wiggins is a bit less vocal.

"I talk about it, but only to the right people," he said. "I'll talk about it in my group sessions but I'm not going to open that side of myself up to the press.

"The thing is, the press wants to make it simple without taking the time to find out what chemical dependency is. I didn't like reporters going to my junior high teachers and saying, 'Did you see a sign?' It's not just some guy using drugs. Does anyone know why guys do it? I don't."

Likewise, he laughs off the Orioles' voluntary drug-testing plan.

"Come on, that's not the answer," he said. "Let's say you have a franchise player who comes up positive. What does the doctor do? He tells him, 'You came up positive again.' Then what? What else can he do?

"If the doctor tells the club, he's violating the agreement, and if he tells the press, he's violating the agreement.

"The only way testing works is the way they do it in the minor leagues. You get caught positive once, and you're warned. You get caught a second time, and you're finished. Guys don't use drugs in the minor leagues because of fear."

Because he never had that fear, he said his life has been changed forever. For one thing, he knows there will always be a label on him. He has tested clean for 10 months, and if he's ever tested positive again, his career probably is over.

Wiggins said he's clean and intends to stay that way. But his life is public and, on the street, he's an addict.

"I'm sure there were little jokes made in our clubhouse last year," he said. "I'm not saying people were mean, but it's inevitable that you get branded. I know I'm never going to get a beer commercial or anything like that. I've been labeled."

"That's fine, too, but it doesn't mean I'm totally useless to the community. I think I have some worth, and I'll prove players aren't just interested in money. I'd like to do the kind of thing Eddie [Murray] did [giving $500,000 to start an Outward Bound program], but I'd have to do it on a smaller scale.

"I'm not as bad as people think. But I do have flaws."