Tag:Mark Fidrych
Posted on: April 23, 2009 12:29 am
Edited on: April 23, 2009 12:30 am

Aaron Boone: Post-surgery progressing well

Four weeks after open-heart surgery, Houston infielder Aaron Boone is thrilled with his progress.

Why, on Wednesday afternoon, he even drove himself to a haircut appointment, the grocery store and to "a very light workout" near his home in the Phoenix area.

"The big thing is fighting fatigue," Boone said during a telephone conversation Wednesday afternoon. "The first two weeks, the littlest things would make you tired."


The guy isn't quite ready to play nine innings yet, but he's making very steady progress.

And he hopes to play nine -- or, at least, a few innings -- before this season ends.

Boone, 36, was diagnosed in college with a congenital defect in his heart where the valve had two -- not the normal three -- cusps to manage blood flow. He had it checked every year, but it wasn't until this spring that his cardiologist determined that it had reached the point where he needed to have it repaired.

So he left Houston's camp in March, and surgeons replaced his bicuspid aortic valve at Stanford University.

He's not supposed to lift anything heavier than five pounds during the first six weeks, and he can gradually increase that between the sixth and the 12th weeks following surgery. He's on blood thinners now for a little while longer, and he's looking forward to getting through these first 12 weeks following surgery.

"By 12 weeks, you can do whatever you want," he says. "I'm even thinking about trying to play later this year. We'll cross that bridge when we get there. But it would be cool to show myself I can do it."

The Astros, he says, have been in very close contact.

"Houston has been awesome," Boone says. "They've treated me like I've been there for 12 years. I'm really appreciative."

He's also been inundated with well wishes from throughout baseball.

"It's been overwhelming," Boone says. "I'm so appreciative of the number of messages from very close friends and family, and the random people who have called. It's been very touching."

He was hoping to travel to Houston for the Astros' next homestand -- May 6-10 against the Cubs and San Diego -- but he probably will have to wait for the following homestand (May 19-24) unless he acquires an assistant in the next several days.

See, it's difficult to travel when you're still under doctors' orders not to lift more than five pounds.

Here's wishing Boone the very best, a complete recovery and a return to the field this season, if that's what he wants.

And in the meantime, whenever his playing days are finished, I know of one talent he's got that definitely should keep him involved in the game. Check it out here.

Likes: Aaron Boone making a strong recovery. Best news of the day. ... The Detroit News' Tom Gage and his excellent piece on the late Mark Fidrych. ... The Pirates, winning? Really? You go, Buccos. Look forward to seeing them soon. ... David Newhan signing with the Phillies as a player-coach at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. ... You can never go wrong with Rubio's Fish Tacos.

Dislikes: Brutal scoring decision in the first inning in Anaheim on Wednesday night when Tigers right fielder Ryan Raburn butchered a Maicer Izturis fly ball. Inexplicably, it went as a double instead of a two-base error. Worst scoring decision I've seen in a long, long time. And making it worse, three batters later, Kendry Morales blasted a three-run homer when Justin Verlander should have been out of the inning. Ugh. ... I really like Amy Poehler, but from what I saw of her new show the other night, Parks and Recreation, she's finally met something that can make her not funny. And that's really hard to do.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"So buy this fool some spirits and libations
"It's these railroad station bars
"With all these conductors and the porters
"And I'm all out of quarters
"And this epitaph is the aftermath
"Yeah I choose my path"

-- Tom Waits, Bad Liver and a Broken Heart



Posted on: April 13, 2009 6:52 pm
Edited on: April 13, 2009 8:27 pm

Requiem for The Bird

 I missed the Monday Night Baseball Game in 1976 when Mark Fidrych introduced himself to the world, through the serious tones of Howard Cosell and the magic of the old game of the week.

I think I was the only person in the entire state of Michigan to miss it.

Back then, I was going to be a basketball star -- ah, the idealism of youth -- and I had spent the week at Digger Phelps' camp at Notre Dame. What I clearly remember is my parents picking me up at the end of that week and my mother excitedly telling me all about this curly-haired kid who talked to the ball while he pitched.

The way I figured it, if even my mother was all that hopped up about some new phenom, he must be quite the story. And what a story Fidrych was, from the shooting-star exuberance of that '76 season to the stunningly quick flameout less than two years later.

Sitting here across the country in the Dodger Stadium press box, it is impossible not to think back to those days as the news hits -- and hits hard -- that Fidrych is dead at 54.

If you were in Michigan or anywhere close, the Bird was the word during the summer of '76. You hung on his every start, watching the crowds swell at Tiger Stadium for what was a bad, bad baseball team.

Fidrych was a one-man gate attraction, between his uncanny knack for keeping the ball down (19-9, 2.34 ERA in '76) and his even uncannier knack of talking to the ball and dropping to his hands and knees to groom the mound between innings.

Nobody was more exuberant. Nobody was more cool. Nobody was more intriguing.

Fidrych spread like a wildfire, drawing huge crowds with each road start as well. And this was way before clubs had marketing departments or ESPN instantly spread the gospel of the newest phenom. Fidrych's act was genuine, not contrived to get himself some publicity and more dough.

Everybody loved The Bird. By summer's end, after school started, I remember an eighth grade classmate of mine named Wendy St. Bernard entranced in one of those quickie paperbacks that already had been produced on The Bird's life. He was all of 21.

Odd what you remember all these years later, isn't it?

By the next summer, it was finished. The Bird had wrecked his knee hopping over a fence during spring training in Lakeland, Fla. While we all hung on updates and prayed that the knee would heal, it never did. At least, not before his arm went.

And now, Detroit has been hit with a double dose of sadness this spring, Fidrych's death following closely that of beloved television broadcaster (and Hall of Fame player) George Kell.

And the start of this season is unspeakably sad, with Fidrych's death following those of young Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and Hall of Fame Philadelphia broadcaster Harry Kalas.

I remember running into Fidrych at the final game at Tiger Stadium in 1999, when they brought back so many of the old Tigers. It struck me as odd that he spoke in a thick New England accent. I don't know why it would strike me as odd. He grew up in New England and returned home after he retired.

But when someone as exciting as Fidrych comes along, it's as if he belongs to all of us. It certainly seemed that way back then.

In one sense, he'll always be 21 with curly, blonde hair, yapping away at the baseball. And even though he's sadly gone, the mere mention of his name will always take those of us who were there back to that wonderful summer of '76, the bicentennial in full flower, a wide-open future in our hearts.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take a minute and close my eyes. And I'm going to picture one of the greatest Sports Illustrated covers ever: Fidrych in full windup (and full smile), with Sesame Street's Big Bird standing behind, peeking around him.

If you were there, you know.





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