FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Terry Doyle was the little boy the whole neighborhood knew, the one who worked in his dad’s convenience store, located above the basement level in which the family lived in Salem, N.H.
From the time he was 6, he and his sister helped to stock groceries on the shelves. By the time they were 10, they were on the schedule to work, two or three nights a week during the school year, daytime hours during the summer.
Doyle laughs when asked if he ever lobbied his father, John, for a raise.
“I tried that but it didn’t work out well,’’ he said. “My dad said, ‘Fine, find your own ride to baseball practice.’’’
Terry Doyle needed those rides. Soon enough, the whole town got to know him because of baseball -- he was an All-State selection as a junior and went 10-0 as a senior. And while John Doyle and his wife Marianne eventually moved to Warwick, R.I., those folks in Salem are invited to what was a most unexpected homecoming. There’s a chance that at some point this season, they just might see that little kid from the convenience store, now standing at a full 6-foot-4, in a Red Sox uniform.
Doyle’s path to the Red Sox wasn’t the most direct one -- senior-year draft pick out of Boston College by the White Sox (37th rounder), Rule 5 pick by the Twins last year, and four months at the end of the season with Fukuoka in Japan, with some offseason substitute teaching stints in Rhode Island also in the mix.
“I took the scenic route,’’ he said.
But when Fukuoka didn’t pick up the option they held on Doyle’s contract last October, the Red Sox called the same day. He went to Fenway Park, threw a bullpen there, and shortly afterward his agent called with the Sox offer. Doyle told him he’d talk to his family and let him know by the next morning.
“I hung up the phone and looked at my dad and said, ‘What am I doing?’’’ Doyle said. “Yeah, let’s do it.’’
On Thursday, Doyle is scheduled to pitch in Thursday’s exhibition against Boston College, the school where he starred as a freshman and sophomore, then scuffled his final two seasons, in part due to a skin disorder that affected his pitching hand. He has been on the other side: In 2005, his freshman year at BC, he was summoned to pitch the last inning against the Sox.
“I faced Hanley Ramirez -- he was the big name,’’ Doyle said. “He got an infield single off me. George Lombard popped out to second. I don’t remember who the next guy was, but he grounded out to second.
“The batter with two outs was Jeff Bailey, a long-time catcher in the system.
“I’ve always been a curveball guy,’’ Doyle said. “I had a 1-and-2 count, and the whole dugout was yelling, ‘Throw the hammer.’ I threw it, he swung over it and struck out, and the whole dugout erupted.
“I think that was the only strikeout we got the whole game.’’
Doyle projects to be a candidate for the Pawtucket rotation to start the season. He won five starts in a row last summer for Charlotte, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate after he was returned to Chicago by the White Sox, when Fukuoka came calling.
That “hammer” might yet come in handy for the kid born in Massachusetts (Concord), grew up in New Hampshire (Salem) and now lives in Rhode Island (Warwick). The first test comes Thursday.