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‘‘I see his jersey, and I’m like, ‘That’s him!’ I’m calling everybody,’’ said Keith Meza, a childhood friend.
‘‘I see his jersey, and I’m like, ‘That’s him!’ I’m calling everybody,’’ said Keith Meza, a childhood friend. (Globe Staff Photo / Patricia McDonnell)

Hyde Park friends excited by pitcher's debut for Red Sox

Buzz was everywhere, at the River Street auto shops, the food mart, the luncheonette counter at the drug store. Did you see the hurler with the high-90s fastball? He's one of ours.

All around Hyde Park yesterday, residents brimmed with pride in the rise of Manny Delcarmen, an emerging baseball phenom who went from pitching outside his father's auto body shop to making his Red Sox debut Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

''You get excited when someone local makes it," said Myron Garber, 72, who was working behind the counter at Hyde Park Pharmacy yesterday, blocks away from where Delcarmen grew up in a quiet section of wood-frame houses and mom-and-pop shops. ''It doesn't happen very often. Not too many guys from this area have ever made it to the bigs."

Keith Meza, 25, who grew up in Hyde Park and works at Fluff and Buff Auto Detailing, played baseball with Delcarmen when the two were less than 5 feet tall. On Tuesday night, Meza watched on television at his home in Hyde Park as his childhood friend took the field in Florida.

''I was like -- what the? -- I thought he was still playing for Pawtucket," Meza said. ''And then I see the kid, I see his jersey, and I'm like, 'That's him!' I'm calling everybody: 'That's my boy!' " Meza pantomimed frantically dialing a phone.

Delcarmen, 23, retired the side on his first night in the major leagues. He also struck out one. But to hear residents around his old home on Sunnyside Street tell it, it might have been the best thing to happen to Red Sox baseball since the team won the World Series.

''They say he can't miss; he's got the stuff," Garber said, as he watched customers buy lottery tickets and soda. ''To pitch like that, he's got to be a very special person."

At Accurate Automotive, Joseph Natale, 34, remembers the day Delcarmen tossed a couple of fastballs outside his garage. Delcarmen's father owned one of the auto body shops near his on River Street, and even then, about two years ago, there was something special about the way that Delcarmen handled a baseball, Natale said. He remembers the sound, most of all.

''It made you look; you could hear the slap of the pitch hitting the glove," Natale said, as he stood in his grease-covered gray coveralls. ''He threw it 90-plus. I'm a hack baseball player; I play a little, for what it's worth, and I was like: 'That's nasty. That's got some speed to it.' I don't think I'd want to stand in front of that."

But Natale had his own reasons to hope for Delcarmen's success. ''I have his autographed prospect card," he said, grinning and laughing. ''I hope he becomes the next Pedro Martinez."

Baseball greatness in Hyde Park is carefully tracked, and there are some quick to point out that Delcarmen is not the only ballplayer to come out of the neighborhood.

''Eddie Pellagrini, from around the corner," said Larry Kenney, 70, a funeral home owner who was cooling off in the air conditioning at the luncheonette counter at Hyde Park Pharmacy. ''Eddie Pellagrini used to play shortstop for the Sox, back in the 1940s with Ted Williams and Johnny Pesky."

But Kenney, too, was excited about the newest addition to the neighborhood lineup.

''He pitched a good game last night, I can tell you that," Kenney said. ''It's always a good thing to have a kid from the neighborhood in there. He'll do well."

Brian Foley, 44, who works with Meza, said he had just repaired Delcarmen's sport utility vehicle last week.

''We shot the breeze for a few minutes; I congratulated him, wished him well," Foley said. ''And then last night he was on TV. I was telling everybody, 'Quick! Quick! You gotta see this!' "

As he sweltered in the bay of his garage, Meza could hardly fathom his friend's meteoric rise.

''He grew up totally different," Meza said, laughing. ''I grew up around here, and he grew up around here. And he totally took a different path. He's doing awesome, really awesome."

Delcarmen was a second-round draft pick by Boston in 2000 and went on to play for Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket. Tuesday night, he had the neighborhood transfixed when he took the field with the Red Sox for the first time.

''It was amazing," said Juan Cruz, 44, who was working behind the counter at B&B Food Mart on River Street. ''I like the way he throws the ball."

Another well-known Hyde Park native said he was also tickled by Delcarmen's success.

''I think it's wonderful," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who recalled meeting Delcarmen a few years ago. ''His father was a working person. What a role model he will be for the kids of our city. That's right, some good things do come out of Hyde Park."

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