By Justin Saglio, Community Reporter
Northborough – Local residents gathered recently to compete in an 11-team softball tournament to raise money for charity and to honor Mark Fidrych, a professional baseball player who retired to Northborough before his death in 2009.
Funds raised from the tournament will be given to the Genesis Fund, which focuses on providing care to children with birth defects and their families. Founded by Dr. Murray Feingold in 1982, the fund provides care through clinical home visits and by funding therapeutic performing arts programs.
“We sit down with the parents and we talk to them with all these issues. That's not something you can do if you have another 30 patients to see,” Feingold said.
Held at Northborough's Memorial and Casey fields, the elimination tournament featured teams playing 45-minute games.
“What I like about this event is that it is a community event in Mark Fidrych's community,” Feingold said. “These are the people he knew.”
Selectmen Chair Jeff Amberson remembers Fidrych well and attended the Aug. 27 tournament.
“When the rest of the country thought of Mark, they thought of a baseball player,” he said. “In Northborough, he is a nice guy who just happened to play baseball. Kids would go to his house and ask if Mark could come out and play catch, and he would do it.”
Fidrych received the Rookie of the Year award in 1976 as a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. His antics on the mound made him a crowd favorite and his tall, lanky build earned him the nickname “the Bird.”
Raised in Northborough, Fidrych played for Algonquin Regional High School before being drafted to play professionally.
Fidrych passed away in 2009 in an accident while working on his pickup truck. The late baseball player had been involved with the Special Olympics and the Genesis Fund before his death.
Fidrych's widow, Ann, has also been involved with the Genesis Fund. Feingold said Ann came up with the idea for the tournament and did the initial planning.
“He was a big kid himself – he just enjoyed being with people, he enjoyed people smiling and he enjoyed special needs kids,” Ann said. “If he were here today he would be having fun with everyone.”
According to Feingold, “While fund-raisers provide the Genesis fund with the means to reach out to many children in need, gaps in the healthcare system leave many children without proper attention. Without question there is not enough support for children.”