The Tigers asked him to get rid of his two motorcycles. When he accepted a Thunderbird from the Ford Motor Company, a Detroit columnist wrote that Fidrych had lost his innocence. Rolling Stone published a story chronicling his sex life. Every day, no matter whether he pitched or not, a troop of reporters asked him for every detail of things that he had done unconsciously, gnawed on each particular until it stopped seeming natural at all. "I never thought all that would be part of it," Fidrych says. "As soon as people started writing about it, talking about it so much, you think about it."
The daydream in the truck has lasted too long. He pulls onto his farm, surveys the growing piles of cut brush with pleasure and calls the workers to come drink their coffee.
"Hey," one of them asks through the steam from his cup, "we were wondering, Mahk, back when you played, how fast could you throw a ball?"
"In the 90s."
Fidrych's eyes shift. "How much more you think you'll get to today?"
Lunchtime. Chet's Diner. Thank God the blowhard isn't here, the one who can blow an entire lunch away talking about how he wants to make Mahk a pitchah again. Because if the blowhard had been here Mahk would have had to disappear inside himself or out the door, suddenly remembering an appointment, as if Mahk was the kind of guy who made appointments. Then he couldn't have sat and watched that pretty little black-haired bundle of laughter and efficiency, the waitress at Chet's, the Greek man's daughter, Ann, whom he is going to marry in October.
"Need a Chetbuhgah, a Supah Deluxe with no tomatoes and a bread setup, sweetie," she calls to her mother at the grill. "Need a bowl o' chowdah, Dad. How ya doin', guys? Watcha want today? Onion ring-a-lings and a rootin'-tootin' beer?... Dad, I said chowdah, not chili. Quick, quick, like a bunny. No, Mothah, no tomatoes on that buhgah. I know, sweetie, isn't life hahd?"
A biochemistry major who graduated from Fairfield University and then decided she'd rather get up at 4:30 every morning and work the diner with her folks, a 30-year-old woman, smart and strong, who went to Algonquin High in Northboro with him but barely even knew him then and never saw him throw a baseball—that's the kind of girl Mark Fidrych needed. For three months, in a little town rampant with gossip peddlers, where everyone knew Mark and everyone knew Ann, no one in town knew about Mark and Ann. Fidrych cloaked their relationship in secrecy, as if afraid of the effect other eyes might have upon something he considered sacred. "It's my thrill, just her and me," he says. "People don't understand. It's better when it's a secret, when no one knows. If baseball could have been that way...."
There was another reason for the secret, too. As soon as everyone knew, it became a commitment. Commitments scare Fidrych. He could sit on a woodpile for weeks, but when he decided to chop, he chopped every bloody limb, human or hickory, that got in his way. He gave so much of himself he couldn't shrug and walk away if the commitment splintered. So he sat on a barstool or the back of the truck and talked about 150 jobs he might do, or, before Ann, ogled the three girls in tight sweaters he might ask out. The first girl he'd ever fallen for had left him, then a 2�-year relationship in Detroit had ended when the woman wouldn't go with him to the minor leagues, or to Northboro. That left the women who recognized him at the bars. "Of course I felt women only liked me because of baseball," he says. "It made me wonder if it was worth giving myself to any woman again. It's hard to be confident about showing feelings.