Baseball Knuckles Under as Japan League Drafts Teen Girl Pitcher
It's a breath of fresh air for Japan's conservative baseball establishment: 16-year-old high schooler Eri Yoshida was drafted last Sunday, November 16 by the Kobe 9 Cruise, one of four pro baseball teams in the new independent Japan League. Yoshida, who by all accounts throws a wicked knuckle ball, will be Japan's first female professional baseball player.
32 players - 31 of them men - were selected in the Japan League's initial player draft but none of them are getting the media attention being showered upon the 5-foot tall, 114-pound Yoshida, chosen in the seventh round.
"I'm really happy I stuck with baseball," said Yoshida at a post-draft news conference. "I want to pitch against men."
Although girls have been playing Little League baseball in Japan for the past 10 years, most who continue playing choose women's softball or play part-time for company sponsored teams.
This video shows Yoshida chatting with the media and tossing her trademark knuckler :
Yoshida has been pitching since she was just 9 years old and names Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield as her inspiration. Her father showed her a video of Wakefield throwing the knuckleball and Yoshida thought to herself, "I can do that." According to Yoshihiro Nakata, her new manager at the Kobe 9 Cruise, "Her sidearm knuckleballs dip and sway, and could be an effective weapon for us." Girl power indeed!
The spotlight being cast on Eri Yoshida is casting a shadow all the way to Boston, prompting Tim Wakefield himself to text a message of encouragement "Hope I can see her pitch one day," said Wakefield to the Red Sox office and subsequently relayed to AP. "I'm honored that someone wants to become me. I wish her the best of luck. Maybe I can learn something from her." (via ESPN)