"He has to be totally honest with himself now," Ann says. "I just ask him direct questions: Are you facing facts or are you avoiding the issue, Mahk?"
Fidrych walks into a Northboro bar and begins methodically drinking beer. Memories come tumbling from him. The child comes back into his voice. "I got Yaz's bat, I got Pete Rose's bat, I got Fred Lynn's bat, I got George Scott's bat—know how I got that? I told Bill Freehan, 'Ask George Scott when he comes to the plate to give me one of his bats, and if he says yes, tell him to look over at me in the dugout and tip his hat.' " Fidrych's eyes widen. "He did! I remember pitching in my third or fourth game against Yaz and Rico Petrocelli. Wow! Those guys were my heroes growin' up. And strikin' out Rico on a 3-2 pitch that was a ball. I said, 'Wow!' And...."
He is reminded of the media people who haunted him and of the fans who mercilessly stalked him. Don't complicate it, his voice begs. "It wasn't the fan who hung all over me," he protests. "The fan had to go home after the game, go to bed and get up for work. The people who did that, they were another person."
No matter how hard he tries, the complications remain. His life has been forever set apart from the others in the town. No matter how many times he enters the forest with his chain saw and splitting wedge, his woodpile will never be cut and stacked the same neat way as those of his friends, the house painter and oil-truck driver and cable TV serviceman.
Maybe settling down and getting married will help. "This commitment will last," he says. "You can be married and have a sore arm, right? But what if the Kansas City Royals call tomorrow and say they need a pitching coach? I still got it in my blood."
Maybe Mark should try to pitch again. "My arm has felt fine since the surgery. The doc finding all those things wrong inside was the best relief of my life. Now I know my problems weren't in my head. I haven't thrown a baseball since, only a snowball. Maybe that dream means I should just play in the Stan Musial League around here and see how it feels. I won't count baseball out. I won't."
Maybe Mark shouldn't try to pitch again. "I'd lose a full five months of my life getting in shape. I don't want to be that dedicated again. What if I say I'll play in the Musial league and I can't make it to a game or enough guys don't show up to play? I can't screw around in life anymore."
Maybe he should have children. "The best thing I loved about playing ball was seeing a little kid's happy face. Yeah, I want kids. But sometimes I feel I wouldn't want to bring a kid into this world. The poor kid.... It was so hard for me."
Surely, with the family and fianc�e and two dogs who care and the little town that accepts him, he would come through this. After all, it was only one year....
He stands up. It is 11 p.m., early for a 21-year-old idol, late for a 31-year-old pig farmer.