Tears of joy and screams of elation erupted in Fratelli's Ristorante and Pizzeria in Baxter Village at 1:17 p.m. Thursday when friends and family of Enzo Martinez saw a dream come true.
Martinez, a former standout soccer star at Northwestern High School, was selected with the 17th overall pick in the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft 2012 by Real Salt Lake.
The draft was telecast live on ESPN2 and his family gathered to watch, hoping for the best.
"I'm so excited," his mother, Mariela Beltran, said. "I am emotional. He worked to prepare for this."
Martinez, a midfielder, came to America when he was 10 years old in 2000 from Uruguay, and his family settled in Rock Hill. He quickly got connected with the local soccer establishment in the city and began his march to Thursday afternoon's draft.
He is a junior at the University of North Carolina and helped to guide the Tar Heels to the NCAA men's soccer national championship this past season. He has scored 22 goals and dished out 22 assists in 72 career games for North Carolina over his three seasons. He has started in 53 games and helped the Tar Heels reach the College Cup, soccer's Final Four, all three seasons.
A four-time state player of the year for South Carolina and three-time S.C. Gatorade Player of the Year, Martinez guided Northwestern to three state championships in 2006, 2008 and 2009. His senior team was selected No. 1 in the nation by ESPNRise. He was also part of the Discoveries Soccer Club's national championship team in 2009.
"We are so proud of Enzo and all he has accomplished at the club level, in high school and the NCAA," said Ron Lordo, vice president for Discoveries.
Martinez's high school coach and Discoveries coach Dom Wren was in Kansas City at the Convention Center with Martinez where the draft took place.
The buzz in the air at Fratelli's was electric, and every time MLS commissioner Don Garber approached the podium to announce the next pick in the draft, people started hushing one another and silence fell over the establishment.
Projected to be in the top 10 by some analysts, some wondered just where the 21-year-old Martinez would go as he began dropping. One analyst said he would most likely go to the Philadelphia Union with the 13th pick.
But as each pick came, each announcement led to sighs as the anticipation built. At one point, with the 11th pick, all Commissioner Garber could get out was from the "University of North Carolina," Fratelli's erupted with premature cheers and tears only to find out that it was Martinez's UNC teammate Matt Hedges picked by FC Dallas.
As the draft went on, ESPN commentators Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas commented how Martinez was "a steal" for whomever picked him. And when he was picked at No. 17, one announcer said Martinez would surely go in with a "chip on his shoulder" because of his competitive nature.
Then came the moment everybody had been waiting for, and Martinez's name was called by Garber about 80 minutes after the draft had begun.
Martinez's older sister, Lucia, 25, was overcome with emotion.
"We are so close," she said. "This is why I am like this. He is special to me. He gives me a lot of moments to be happy. He is like my hero."