‘Knuckle Princess’ ready for minor league baseball debut
Eri Yoshida, the 18-year-old Japanese pitcher set to make her US minor-league baseball debut later this month, will begin pre-season workouts Sunday for her new club, the Chico Outlaws.
The Japanese teen, hoping to be a US and Asian role model, arrived Friday to join her new club and is tentatively set to make her US debut as a starter for the California squad in its May 29 home game against the Tijuana Cimmarones.
“I’m really hoping that the way I’m striving for my dreams means a lot of women will start playing baseball, not just in the US but in Japan too,” Yoshida said. “I’m excited to see to see how many join me.”
The first woman to pitch professionally in two nations will be the main drawing card for the Outlaws and their 10-team Golden Baseball League, which includes clubs in Calgary, Edmonton and Victoria, Canada.
“This is a real opportunity for me,” Yoshida said. “I’ll try the best I can and work as hard as I can. I’d really like to show what I can do on the mound.
“I have so much to learn. I’m excited and I’m ready for it.”
Asked what it felt like to strike out a man for the first time, Yoshida pumped her first and screamed, “Yes.”
Mike Marshall, general manager of the Outlaws, said Yoshida will probably have a limited number of pitches during her first few days of workouts.
Outlaws manager Garry Templeton is impressed by her command of fastballs and curveballs as well as her trademark knuckleball.
“Once you see her on the field, you see immediately she has a lot of baseball knowledge”, said Templeton. “I was a little shocked the first time I saw her myself. She knows a lot about the game and can really play.”
Yoshida, who will wear jersey number three, had a breakout performance last year in an instructional league for the Yuma Scorpions. She went 1-1 with a 4.79 earned-run average in 10 games.
Yoshida received some training lessons in Florida earlier this year from Boston Red Sox veteran Tim Wakefield, Major League Baseball’s master knuckleball ace.
“Mr. Wakefield really showed me how to hit a target with it,” Yoshida said. “I really didn’t expect to ever see him or talk to him, but he really helped me throw it.”
The last woman to pitch in US minor-league baseball was Ila Borders in 1997.