Sox and the city character
Delcarmen perfectly cast with home team
It didn't matter to Manny Delcarmen who was sitting next to his father, engaged in conversation. His usual response to the 20 or so scouts who came around, talking, watching, and waiting, was to say he simply wasn't interested. He wanted to sign with one team.
"I would come by and be like, 'Dad, I don't care. I want to get drafted by Boston,' " Delcarmen said. "And I'd just go to my room and let my dad talk to the guy. I was like, 'Dad, I'm playing with Boston. That's it.' "
Hard-headed? Perhaps. Misguided? Perhaps. But Delcarmen, of Hyde Park and West Roxbury High School, knew where he wanted to play professional baseball. It had to be in Boston, with his hometown team, surrounded by family and friends. With Fenway Park enveloping him, with the Wall at his back, with the future at his feet.
Then came June 5, 2000. Delcarmen sat at an Old Country Buffet in Norwood while his future was decided. When he was selected by the Red Sox in the second round of the draft, he was on his way to fulfilling his dream.
It is seven years later. Seven years of hard work and a comeback from ligament reconstruction in his elbow, commonly known as Tommy John surgery. Seven years of minor league baseball and wondering when that breakthrough might come. Seven years of uncertainty that have brought not just baseball but a wife, a baby boy, and a place among his heroes on his hometown team. And now, a World Series ring.
"It's awesome," the 25-year-old Delcarmen said during Sunday night's celebration. "Coming from the beginning of this year, I never thought that I would be here with the team. Just exciting. My dream was to make it with Boston in a Red Sox uniform, which I made that. But I never thought I'd be here celebrating with a ring, and going to the parade in Boston."
Respect and admirationEvery time his father looks at him, every time their eyes meet, Delcarmen sees the pride.
He knows where he has been, struggling through six years in the minors and the starts and stops since his major league debut in 2005.
There is new maturity. He got married in November 2006 to Anna, had his first child in early September, Manuel Delcarmen III, and attached himself to the major league roster, his breakout coming down the stretch this season.
"To me, it's been very rewarding as a father," said Manuel "Kuki" Delcarmen Sr., who played in the Philadelphia Phillies system. "As a parent, we always want the best for our kids. Me not making it to the majors and seeing my son make it to the majors, it's a great reward.
"He made it. He's doing well. As a father you can't ask for anything better. He's been blessed. I've been blessed. He's a great son, an excellent son. He hasn't changed. I know he's not going to change. I don't care how high he can fly, he'll still fly down to the earth and sleep on the ground."
Anna, who met Delcarmen in high school, says her husband is the same jokester he was as a teenager, with an added dose of maturity. But despite his easygoing personality, being the first Boston city kid drafted in 34 years can't be easy. People relate because he's one of them.
The expectations aren't easy.
"I'm sure there's a lot of pressure," Anna said. "Manny doesn't show it. He doesn't act [like there's] pressure very often, he's so laid-back. This is his hometown. He wants to make them proud. He wants to show them, 'This is what I can do for you, Boston.' "
"It's a big concern," said Ray Fagnant, the scout who tracked Delcarmen for the Red Sox. "There's huge distractions. I saw it firsthand, having played in the Red Sox system. There were local kids that got to Boston [and] because of the pressure and distractions weren't able to get it done. Manny, I worried about it a little less with him. His disposition. His demeanor. It was a good fit for him. He really loved the fact that he was a hometown kid for the hometown team."
'This is a kid who did it'The champagne celebration in Colorado after the Sox' sweep of the Rockies is a revelation. Delcarmen stands - or, rather, jumps around - with a look of pure rapture. Sure, everyone is happy. Everyone is overjoyed, overwhelmed, and overindulging. But Delcarmen is glowing.
"You see him celebrating and you see the excitement in his face," Anna said. "It's like seeing a 5-year-old kid come down the stairs on Christmas morning. It's not something you can do every day, open a bottle of champagne and dump it over Big Papi's head."
He has been waiting for that special moment.
He thought when he hurt his arm in May 2003 that his career was over. After surgery and a summer spent rehabbing, his talent and desire overcame the bitterness.
"I feel like I grew up knowing this is the only thing I knew how to do," Delcarmen said. "I followed my dad from park to park, softball, baseball, growing up I always had a glove on my hand. My dad's buddies would tell him, 'I think Manny's going to be special.' Coming out of high school, I wasn't the biggest guy for school. I mean, I did what I had to do to play baseball, to get by. I just wanted to get drafted and get right into pro ball."
Seven years after he walked across the stage at the West Roxbury High graduation, the city kid has become a champion. Just as he wished.
"It's something to be proud of, to be one of the few kids to get drafted from the inner city," Anna said. "You grow up here, you're a Red Sox fan, a Red Sox fan for life. To play for the team you grew up cheering for is amazing. It gives hope for a lot of inner-city kids. This is a kid who did it. He's living his dream."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.