Staying up for Dice-K
Fans in Japan didn't let the middle-of-the-night start time stop them from watching Matsuzaka's debut
At the Brain Buster sports bar in Tokyo Japan, Japanese baseball fans including the bartender Kyozo Watanabe (center) watched Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch against Kansas City. On the left is Mahiro Ochi, a customer at the bar. (Globe Staff Photo / David L. Ryan)
TOKYO -- Its after 3 a.m., but that hasnt stopped die-hard Dice-K fans from pulling an all nighter at the Brain Buster sports bar here to watch the Red Sox ace make his regular season major league debut.
Satoshi Ishimaru and his two friends cheered and clinked glasses of vodka and tea as Daisuke Matsuzaka took the mound more than 6,000 miles away in Kansas City. These newly-minted Red Sox fans said they are looking to the 26-year-old phenomenon -- featured on nine television screens across the front of the bar -- to show just what Japans baseball prowess is all about.
Im too excited to sleep. Ive been waiting all winter for this, said Mahiro Ochi, 32, of Tokyo. We want to see Matsuzaka strike out Major League Baseball players on a fastball.
Dice-Ks debut with the Red Sox has dominated headlines here for months since he signed a $52 million contract to defect from Japans domestic baseball league to join Bostons best. While Japanese media have traipsed every move of the Yokahama native in the United States, local television stations fanned across Tokyo to capture baseball fever in the pre-dawn hours.
This is a huge story. Everybody is so excited, said Toshiyuki Arizono, producer of broadcasting station NHKs News Watch 9 program, which filmed fans at the Brain Buster bar. Its a bigger story than Ichiro [Suzuki] or [Hideki] Matsui ever was, especially because of how much Matsuzaka got paid.
By 4:30 a.m., Madoka Oda munched on noodles at the Brain Buster bar as the Red Sox scored their second run against the Royals in the fifth inning. Oda, 38, said he wants to see Matsuzaka do well and be acknowledged as a good player, not just a good Japanese player. A half hour later, as Matsuzaka finished up the 6th inning, Oda fell asleep, his head on the bar.
It was already two hours later than bar owner Kyozo Watanabe usually kept open his pub -- which has a picture of Fenway Park at the entrance. But he received too many requests to show the game to turn his customers down. By 5:15 a.m., as Matsuzaka stuck out his ninth batter, Watanabe poured himself a drink.
Matsuzaka is symbolic for us to prove how well Japanese players can be, said Yuko Yamaguchi, who grew up in the city of Dice-Ks former baseball team, the Seibu Lions. And the younger generation here can relate to him better. I have big hopes for him.