Fidrych says he still makes "15 to 20 thousand" a year as the Bird, appearing at store openings and minor league games. He annually returns to Michigan, where a baggage handler recently greeted him at the gate with his luggage and a stack of baseball cards to be signed. The first time Ann accompanied him to Detroit, she remarked at how many friends he seemed to have there. "I don't know any of these people," Mark confessed. But he felt as if he did. "Life can't get any better than that," he says of his many well-wishers. " Michigan people are beautiful people."
Down in the basement that Jessica is decorating with mementos from her father's career, Mark points out a hole in the wall where a boy threw a shoe during that boy-girl party. Jessica turned 14 in June, and Mark can scarcely believe it. Which reminds him of a story.
One weekend in the early '90s Fidrych made a charity appearance in Columbus, Ohio. He had planned to return to Northboro on Monday night and report for work on Tuesday morning while Ann and Jessica were spending the week on Cape Cod. Upon hearing of this, an old man in Columbus said to Fidrych, "You mean a man of your status won't take the week off of work to be with your family? You know, your daughter will be gone just like that." And the old guy snapped his fingers.
"A man of your status'," says Fidrych with a laugh. "He kept saying that: 'A man of your status.' "
So Mark drove down to the Cape in the morning and surprised his wife and daughter on the beach. They told him they were glad that he had come. "And so was I," says Fidrych. "Because it all goes by so fast, you know?"