Signed by Boston as a minor-league free agent this offseason, Doyle is now a proud member of the Red Sox organization…the team he spent his childhood rooting for while idolizing John Valentin, Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez among others.
"Every kid growing up in New England playing Little League wants to play for the Red Sox," said the 27-year-old who pitched for Boston College from 2006-2008.
"When I got into pro ball, I hoped that eventually I'd have an opportunity to pitch at Fenway. This year, when they called and said they were interested, it was kind of like a dream come true. That's been my goal my whole life…to play professional baseball for the Red Sox. Hopefully now I have the opportunity to do that."
2012 was a whirlwind for Doyle. Surprisingly left off the 40-man roster of the White Sox, the 6'4" right-hander was selected by the Twins in the Rule 5 draft in December of 2011, giving him his best shot yet at earning a spot in the majors. But a couple bad outings in spring training left him on the outside looking in and he was sent back to Chicago prior to the regular-season when it became clear he wouldn't make Minnesota's major-league team.
Things didn't settle down for him when the season started either. After a dozen strong starts for Charlotte (Triple-A for the White Sox), he took his talents to Japan in mid-season after he was given a contract offer he couldn't refuse. While the new country was a drastic change, it didn't prevent Doyle from continuing to shuffle back and forth between the Japanese minors and the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
"It was kind of a roller coaster," Doyle said, running through the excitement of spring with the Twins and down through the disappointment of being shipped back to the White Sox. "It was a lot of ups and downs and soul searching, trying to look for the positives and figure out that it's not the end of the world."
All that didn't affect how well he pitched, however. Doyle was a stalwart for the Charlotte Knights - the team that eventually fell to Pawtucket in the Governors' Cup Finals - through June, going 6-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 12 games. He made three starts for Charlotte and in two of those he held the opposition to a single hit.
"I was real happy. I settled in and found a groove," he said. "I was starting to really put it together, and I gave myself an opportunity to get a chance to pitch in Japan. Now I'm back here, and hopefully I can pitch just as well this year again."
This year figures to be simpler for Doyle. He signed with the Red Sox knowing he had a substantially smaller shot at cracking the big leagues out of spring. Boston already had its rotation set with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, John Lackey and Felix Doubront.
But the PawSox figure to have their youngest starting staff in years, built around recent acquisitions such as Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster. Doyle can be the veteran on that staff, and perhaps the first call-up should injury strike 45 miles up I-95 North.
"There's obviously an established pitching staff with a lot of guys," Doyle said of the Sox. "Most teams don't go the whole year with one set rotation. I'm hoping at some point I get an opportunity to get up to the big-league club and help them win."
One thing different about last offseason for Doyle is that he didn't spend it as a substitute teacher in the Warwick school district. Doyle had taught math to middle schoolers and high schoolers for four years as a way of bridging seasons and preparing for a career after baseball.
"A baseball career is only going to last so long, and I don't think I can retire at 40," he said, adding that his hope is to both teach math and coach baseball when he retires from playing. "When I was growing up in school, I always had good relationships with my teachers. Most of my baseball coaches were teachers. That's what's drawn me to it."
He has applied some of those math skills to a problem the PawSox might run into, though, come April. With family in Warwick, can McCoy Stadium hold enough fans for his starts?
"The Pawtucket sales are going to go up," he joked. "My mom's entire side of the family is there, and I'm pretty sure they'll be at every start that I have. My family is as excited about me being there as I am."
Exciting times await indeed at McCoy Stadium.