KYOTO, Japan – Yasuyuki Ohta sprinted from the back of his bar's kitchen. He passed jerseys on the wall and autographed baseballs in protective plastic cases before grabbing a T-shirt that hung on a coat rack in the corner.
"See," he said. "J.D. Drew."
Now, there are different types of Boston Red Sox fans. Those who wear pink Red Sox hats and those who read box scores and those who name their kid Manny Papi Beckett. Then there is the type that owns and proudly displays a piece of J.D. Drew memorabilia. Ohta may well be a group of one.
What would you expect from the man who three years ago quit his job as an engineer, bought a pub and named it Fenway Park? Drew had just stroked a grand slam in the Red Sox's eventual 9-2 exhibition victory against the Yomiuri Giants, and Ohta – known as Tiger – didn't want to slack in front of guests.
The other four patrons celebrated too, and although it lacks the fervor of the original, the Fenway Park on the third floor of a building along Kawaramachi-Dori packs a nostalgic feel that makes it a perfect alternative if you happen to be nearly 7,000 miles from Landsdowne Street.
"We are the Red Sox's offshore bar," Tiger said.
His English is getting better. When Fenway Park opened in July 2005, Tiger knew two words: "Yankees suck."
Since then, the lore of this Fenway Park spread, and Red Sox fans from around the world come in to watch games on the projection screen in the back room or Tiger's laptop next to the bottles of liquor. Shuhei Nagai, a local who read about the establishment in the newspaper, sat at the bar nursing a dog's nose – Tiger's special beer-and-Beefeater creation – and admiring the scenery.
"Booze and baseball," he said. "The perfect Sunday night."
Nagai saw the stack of pictures from Tiger's visit to the real Fenway last year. The Red Sox brought him onto the field and gave him full VIP treatment. And the sign that hangs just to the left of the bar. Larry Lucchino, president of the Red Sox, sent him that one. And the drink names: Harvard Cooler (a whiskey drink) and Boston Cooler (a rum concoction) and Broadway Thirst (an unlisted base, likely arsenic, in case a Yankees fan dare step foot into Fenway).
The best day was Dec. 30, 2007. About a week earlier, a man who identified himself as Hideki Okajima said he would like to visit Fenway Park.
"At first," Tiger said, "I thought it was joke."
When the elevator that leads straight to the bar opened, there he was: The left-handed cog in the Red Sox's relief corps who, like Tiger, was raised in Kyoto. Okajima posed for pictures. He held up the sign Lucchino had sent. He affirmed every reason Tiger had asked his younger brother to join him in starting the bar business.
Here, Tiger can bring out the jersey of his favorite player, Nomar Garciaparra, and not get lambasted, because the trade of Garciaparra gave the Red Sox their 2004 championship, and anyway, every Red Sox fan still carries a little inner No-mah.
Tiger isn't sure which jersey he will wear Tuesday when the train drops him off in Tokyo for two regular-season games between the Red Sox and Oakland A's. He gets to go while his brother watches the bar because, Tiger said, "I'm a bigger Sox fan."
Which made Sunday night here so disappointing. At 9 p.m., the game disappeared off Tiger's computer and big screen. The national TV station automatically switched to a variety show about three lawyers questioning an apparent defendant. It was the seventh inning.
Tiger groaned. He called a friend at the Tokyo Dome every few minutes for updates on the score. When told rookie Jed Lowrie hit a home run, Tiger examined his sheet of paper with the Red Sox roster list, because he'd never heard of Lowrie. This was good, exciting. A new player. Another in a long line of Red Sox successes.
In the background, Tiger had started playing one of his half-dozen or so Red Sox DVDs. It was MLB's recap of the 2007 World Series, one he hasn't seen nearly as much as his 2004 celebrations. He pulled out one on the Red Sox's 100th anniversary and another documentary that ran on HBO and, yes, "Fever Pitch," which proves that pabulum knows neither country nor language.
Even more than the Drew grand slam, Tiger got excited when told Red Sox owner John Henry was staying in a Kyoto hotel just three subway stops from Fenway Park. He knows Henry probably won't stop by, but Tiger hopes he does. He wants to tell Henry how much he appreciates the Red Sox, how they've turned into his life and his livelihood. He wants to take a picture with him to hang on the wall.
And then Tiger wants to hang out with Henry at Fenway Park, because he thinks they'll agree that there's no better place in the world.
- Red Sox
- Fenway Park