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Boys of summer get a long fall look

Among the red-faced, red-haired, red-capped masses at the Red Sox parade yesterday, a heated debate unfolded among fans of a certain adoring persuasion. The Sox are world champion athletes, but they are also men -- good-looking young men, to be exact.

''I like Manny's hair, but I think Kapler's pretty cute," said 15-year-old Lauren Palette, of Bolton.

''What about Johnny Damon?" said her friend, Erinn Dandley, also 15, who had Damon's number, 18, painted on her cheek and his name on her jersey. ''But I'd make him cut his hair off," she quickly added, her face screwed into a look of distaste.

Across the crowd, marriage proposals and messages of devotion were scrawled in felt-tip pen, glitter glue, and face paint. They were on poster boards, handbags, and store windows. From Massachusetts Avenue to City Hall Plaza, girls as young as 8 and women 10 times that age craned to glimpse their favorite heartthrob.

Devotees of Damon (''exotic good looks"), Gabe Kapler (''his jawline" ), and Bronson Arroyo (''his lips and eyes") lined the route in full force. Then there were those whose knees went weak at the sight of Manny Ramirez.

''His hair, his face, his body," gushed 27-year-old Dustanna Moye, a decidedly single woman, as she watched the rally on the corner of Boylston and Berkeley streets. ''Everything about him is sexy. If he wasn't married . . ."

As Ramirez glided by the Prudential Center waving a sign saying, ''Jeter's playing golf today, this is better," a wave of female screams could be heard amid the deafening cheers.

Lucinda McCloud held a hand-lettered poster board addressed to the World Series' Most Valuable Player. ''Cario Manny," it said in big, painted letters.

'' 'Cario' means 'darling,' " the 58-year-old from St. Albans, Vt., said. ''They're all darling, but Manny's my favorite."

Near Massachusetts Avenue, Casey Boudrot, 20, of Waltham, said she had to beg her father for $220 to fly home from college in Florida to see ''The Babe" Kapler float by in the parade.

Blushing, she said that she uses his photo as a ''buddy icon" when sending instant messages over the Internet to friends. On Friday night, she changed the outgoing message on her cellphone to inform callers that she would be ''waking up at 5 a.m. to see my boyfriend in the parade."

Meanwhile, Arroyo, the boyish pitcher with the tight, blond cornrows and a wide, sheepish grin, had an army of followers as well. Melissa Cacia, a 20-year-old student at Assumption College in Worcester, said Arroyo's lips and eyes clearly make him the sexiest Red Sox player.

But Cacia's friend said Arroyo was the kind of man she would take home to meet her parents, not the kind she truly swoons over.

''He's, like, cute-cute, not hot-cute," said Lisa Delraso, 19, also a student at Assumption College.

For sheer coolness, second baseman Pokey Reese chalked up points on the handsome meter for Lindsey Conkey, 15.

''He's just so cool," said Conkey, a Melrose resident. ''And he's a good player."

As Damon passed a Starbucks on Boylston Street, he flicked a stray lock from his face and flashed spectators a grand-slam smile.

''Jooohhhnnnyyyy!" screamed one woman, clearly on the verge of tears as she jumped up and down, waving her arms to catch his attention.

The manager at the Starbucks, Kim Elliott, made coffee drinks by the hundreds yesterday morning, but she still had time to talk about Damon: about his grizzly black beard, about his seemingly shy demeanor, and about whether he should shear the signature locks that have become a Red Sox trademark this season.

''Not now!" she said. ''He just won the World Series with that hair."

Outside the coffee shop, artist Marthe Aime waxed on about Damon, the Sox poster boy this year.

''It's the bone structure," said Aime, a painter from Hamilton. ''He's also got a kind of unself-consciousness. A lot of them are very self-conscious."

The widowed artist said judgment of the male physique should be based on energy emitted from within, not on beauty standards society has learned through marketing and advertising. With that in mind, she said, the Red Sox are all beautiful.

''It's like seeing a great theater ensemble where everybody is feeding off each other's energy," Aime said. ''Of course, my daughter, who's 23, is crazy about Jason Varitek."

The players weren't the only Sox men to earn adulation and proposals from female fans along the parade route. As Theo Epstein, the Sox's youngish, clean-cut general manager, waved from the parade, Kerry Aucoin likened his Duck Boat to the Love Boat.

''I'd marry him," said Aucoin, a student at Newton South High School. ''He's hot and he's rich and he's hot, and he runs the best team in the world."

Globe correspondent Peter DeMarco contributed to this report. Donovan Slack can be reached at dslack@globe.com.

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