America’s pastime, half a world away
Stars and Stripes March 26, 2008
TOKYO — Sgt. Eric Kenny has been a Boston Red Sox fan all his life.
Sgt. Scott Vaughn — about two years.
However, both said they were having a blast Tuesday as the Red Sox and Oakland Athletics kicked off the 2008 Major League Baseball season with the first of a two-game series at the Tokyo Dome.
While stateside fans had to wake up early in the morning to catch the Red Sox’s 6-5 victory over the A’s, fans living in Japan got a rare treat watching MLB’s season opener in Japan, just the third time such an event has happened.
“This is a dream come true for me,” said Kenny, a native of Concord, N.H., assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity, Japan. “Being in Japan and coming to a Red Sox game, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The game’s location presented a rare opportunity for servicemembers stationed in Japan. Morale Welfare and Recreation offices across the Kanto Plain worked to secure as many tickets as they could for eager fans. And while some U.S. fans at the game were there to root for Oakland, or just to see some major league action, the overwhelming majority was there to support Boston.
“This is the coolest thing ever,” said Lt. Jon Savage, of Yokosuka Naval Base and a native of Litchfield, Mass. “I was stationed in San Diego for four-and-a-half years and every time the Sox came out to Anaheim or San Diego I was deployed or for some other reason I couldn’t make it. So they had to come to Tokyo for me to see them.”
For many of the fans in attendance, the highlight of the game was seeing Japanese pitching superstar Daisuke Matsuzaka open for the Red Sox. This was the first time that Matsuzaka pitched in Japan since joining the Sox in 2007.
“I think this is a milestone, getting to see ‘Dice-K’ return to play in Japan,” said Vaughn, assigned to Camp Zama’s 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
Vaughn, a recently converted Red Sox fan from Kingsport, Tenn., explained that he became a fan of the team only after losing a bet in 2006.
The loss occurred when Boston catcher Jason Varitek stepped up to the plate while the bases were loaded during the U.S.–Canada game of the World Baseball Classic. Vaughn told other members of his shop that if Varitek hit a grand slam, he’d become a Sox fan.
Unfortunately, a sudden call to the motorpool meant they had to miss the at-bat.
“When we came back the U.S. was up by four (runs) and we checked online and found out that Varitek hit a grand slam,” he said.
But regardless of how long or for what reason they rooted for their teams, fans left the Tokyo Dome on Tuesday having seen an exciting game, capped by a Manny Ramirez 10th inning two-run double deep into center field, securing the win for the Red Sox.