Pat Delano recalled his first experience at Fenway Park as a six-year-old, sitting along the third base line as his beloved Red Sox took on the Yankees. And like everyone else around these parts, it became a way of life for the Braintree resident, now an 18-year-old righthanded pitcher for Braintree High.
But now, like only a few dozen other hometown kids have gotten the chance to, the burly 6-foot-7 fireballer has the option to experience that way of life first-hand. Delano was just coming home from his job doing landscaping and construction when he got the phone call from the Sox letting him know he'd been taken with their 35th round pick in the third and final day of the Major League Baseball Draft.
"I was speechless," Delano said. "I didn't know what was going on, but it's such a good feeling. I can't even really put it into words. You watch the Red Sox so much, and you go to so many games at Fenway, and to hear you get picked...I don't know how to explain it. It's surreal."
He is now the 12th high school player from Massachusetts since 1999 to get drafted by the Red Sox, joining John Gorman (Catholic Memorial, 2011), Dan Kemp (2009, Tantasqua), Mike Yastrzemski (2009, St. John's Prep), Jason Smith (2003, Bourne), Chris Farley (2001, Mahar), Antonio Gonzalez (2001, Framingham), Manny Delcarmen (2000, West Roxbury), and the famed 1999 foursome of Rick Asadoorian (Northbridge), Brad Baker (Pioneer), Jordan Remy (Weston) and current Sox reliever Rich Hill (Milton).
Delano was clocked in the low-90's on his fastball as a sophomore with the Wamps, before an arm injury in the Division 1 South playoffs sidetracked his career. He underwent Tommy John surgery from world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews that offseason.
Now, nearly two years out from the injury, Delano appears to have his velocity back. He routinely topped out in the 87-89 range in his last start last week, a D1 South first-round loss to Taunton. Braintree head coach Bill O'Connell said two weeks ago Delano topped out at 91.
After an OK start to the season, Delano hit his groove during the second half, capped with being named the MVP of the Bay State Conference's Carey Division. For 2012, he struck out 50 batters in 57 innings, with four wins and a 1.21 ERA, and also belted four home runs from the plate. Delano gave credit to his pitching coach, Jim Mann of the Marshfield-based Atlantic Baseball Club, for his turnaround.
"It's funny, me and my coach [Bill O'Connell] were talking about it the other day, my first two starts I wasn't really where I wanted to be," Delano said. "But after that third start against Mansfield, everything started to come together for me, fell into place with me.
"I think [my fastball] is back to where it was as a sophomore. It's definitely my best pitch. My changeup has been pretty solid, but my curve came back at the end of the season. I was spiking it into the ground the first five or six starts."
Delano now has until the August 15 deadline to decide whether he will honor his commitment to Vanderbilt or sign with the Red Sox. The new draft rules this year are a little confusing, but basically there is a penalty if a team pays a player drafted from Rounds 11-40 more than $100,000. Any amount over $100,000 will come out of the Red Sox pool to sign their picks in Rounds 1-10 (their pool for those 10 rounds is $6,884,800). But it does mean that kids drafted in the later rounds can get bonuses of more than $100,000, as long as the Red Sox have slot money left after they sign their picks in the first 10 rounds.
Asked what his decision will be, Delano said, "I'm not completely sure, I've just got to look things over and see what the best decision is." He added that he doesn't expect a decision to come right at the end, but sometime over the summer.