As we previously discussed, America’s pastime, baseball, has quite a following in Japan. It’s fitting, then, that the second woman to play baseball professionally in America is a Japanese import: 18-year-old Yoshida Eri.
Yoshida, nicknamed “Nakkuru Hime” “(“Knuckle Princess”), actually already knows what it’s like to whiz past gender boundaries, as she became Japan’s first female professional baseball player in 2008 at the age of 16, when still in high school! (Her actual debut was in March 2009 at the age of 17.) She was drafted into the Kobe 9 Cruise, one of four teams in the Kansai Independent Baseball League (comparable to Minor League Baseball here). Yoshida, a pitcher, helped lead her team to victory in the first game with her sidearm knuckleball. She played in eleven games with the Kobe 9 Cruise before coming to the US joining the Arizona Winter League, a short-season independent professional league, in late 2009.
While playing in the Arizona Winter League, Yoshida caught the attention of the Chico Outlaws (Chico, California) and was offered a contract to play on the team in the Golden Baseball League, an independent ten-team baseball league. She’s spent the past spring training and just recently debuted in her first official game with the team.
Yoshida’s training experience was made more special for her because Boston Red Sox knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield came to help her train at the Boston Red Sox’s minor league training center. Yoshida credits Wakefield for her style, as videos she saw of his pitching are what inspired her to adapt her trademark “knuckle princess” pitching style.
Yoshida is currently the only female professional baseball player in the U.S. and is only the second female professional U.S. baseball player in history. She’s also now the first female baseball player to play professional in more than one country.
Her first game with the Chico Outlaws took place on May 29th and she helped lead to the team to victory when she pitched for three innings.
Because of the increased interest in Yoshida’s debut, the Chico Outlaws are streaming their games online. If you want to watch Yoshida in action, check out the Outlaws’ website.
Have you ever heard of Yoshida Eri? Have you seen her play? Do you think it’s fitting that a Japanese woman is making baseball history in the U.S.? Why or why not?
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Tags: baseball, eri yoshida, japan, japan news, japanese students, usa