Rules of Tokyo Dome

was told that the Japanese are rigid about rules, so I shouldn’t have
been surprised when I and about ten other Red Sox Nation members were
barred from entering the Tokyo Dome with the rest of our group. Why
were we not allowed to join our party to see the Red Sox’ afternoon
workout? Because, you see, we were not wearing our Red Sox Nation
badges around our necks. (We had left them at the hotel.) No badge, no
entry, period.

Our tour guides explained in Japanese that we were legitimate
members of the Red Sox group, but the security guards seemed genuinely
puzzled — as though no one had ever, in the history of the Tokyo Dome,
attempted to talk his way into the park. And yet, while refusing us
admission, the security guards could not have been more polite and
considerate. Still, rules are rules in Tokyo. No badge, no entry.

eventually, they did let us in, and the solution to the problem tells
you more about Japanese culture than anything else I’ll write while I’m
here. Several Japanese people working outside the dome with badges found out what was going on and handed us their security badges to borrow for two hours. As soon as I had Tomoko Hiragi’s badge around my neck, I was whisked into the Dome as if I were the President of Red Sox Nation. Amazing, no?

the dome, 150 of us crowded into the front two rows along the first
base line and into deep right field to watch a Japan_trip_tavarez_and_manny
baseball practice. Other
than the fact that J.D. Drew entertained us with multiple bombs into
the right field seats, there really isn’t much to report about the
practice itself. They played catch. They fielded ground balls. They
jogged a lot. They took B.P. Hey, it was their last practice before a
grueling 162-game schedule, and they were just trying to stay loose.

you know what I’ll remember about today’s practice? Billy Torres, a
seventh grader from Swampscott. Billy’s dad, Bill, won an all-expenses
paid trip for two to this opening series in a random drawing on WEEI
and decided to bring his son with him. Today, Billy had a fan
experience that will be difficult to top during his lifetime.

Standing in the first row in right field’s foul territory with a glove on his hand, Billy was intent on getting a ball. Somehow.
But the players were pretty much ignoring us, the security guards on
the field (following a Tokyo Dome rule, no doubt) would not even pick
up foul balls at their feet, and we were too far foul for any batting
practice shots to reach us. So Billy took matters into his own hands
and set out for the right field bleachers.

Good thing he didn’t
know that fans aren’t allowed up there, or else he wouldn’t have
grabbed a Manny Ramirez home run ball, then asked Daisuke Matsuzaka and
Hideki Okajima in Japanese to sign his ball (a local TV
reporter taught him the words). Both stars, who were standing on the
warning track chatting during B.P., Japan_trip_billy_and_ball
obliged for the only kid near enough to them to get their attention.
Billy threw them his ball and a pen, they signed, then they tossed them
back. Seconds later, a polite security guard asked Billy to leave the
bleachers and return to the group. 

There really aren’t many
things better than seeing a kid’s expression when he or she is
breathlessly, speechlessly thrilled about getting a ball, an autograph,
or both at a ball game. "Rob, this makes my whole trip!" he said to me.  "I guess some rules are meant to be broken!"

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    Rob –

    Great blog! Glad to see you are branching out Red Sox nation to the Far East. Was that in your campaign platform? Have fun!

    Gregg Chambers


    NICE. Way to capture the atmosphere at practice, Rob. It was definitely more fun watching Billy and the other two kids roam the Dome vacuuming up balls in the bleachers and generally driving the Dome security guards nuts. Practice was almost, dare I say, dull! BTW – I’m finally catching up on reading the rest of your blog since getting back. I LOVE what you’ve written! See ya around at Fenway.

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