Japan’s ‘Knuckle Princess’ on Her Way to California
Tokyo. Pint-sized Japanese pitcher Eri Yoshida said on Friday she had sharpened her tricky knuckleball as she left for the United States to become the first woman to play professional baseball against the men in 10 years.
“I want to attack harder than ever with my knuckleball,” the 18-year-old pitcher told Japanese media before leaving Tokyo to join her new club, the Chico Outlaws of the US Independent Golden Baseball League.
“I want to stick it out until the end of the season,” she said at Narita airport. “I have improved the success rate and control of my knuckleball. I cannot wait to see what kind of world unfolds before me.”
Her speciality, the knuckleball, is a pitch thrown with little speed or spin and moves erratically and unpredictably toward home plate.
Yoshida, a right-handed sidearm pitcher who stands just 155 centimeters tall, had her hair cropped before joining the team’s training camp on Saturday to gear up for the season’s start on May 19.
“It feels as if I won’t need another haircut for half a year until the end of the season,” she said.
“I will take one day at a time to fight on.”
Yoshida said last month that she would look forward to challenging Major League Baseball “if I can.”
She signed a contract with the California-based club last month after attracting attention in a US tryout winter league in Arizona earlier this year.
She will be the first woman to play for a pro team in the United States since Ila Borders retired in 2000 from her career in independent leagues, and the first-ever Japanese woman.
Yoshida, nicknamed the “Knuckle Princess,” became the first woman to play pro baseball with men in Japan last year.
She made her professional debut in March last year, playing with the Kobe Cruise in an independent league in western Japan. She went 0-2 in 11 games before leaving the Kobe club at the end of the season.
Her idol is Tim Wakefield, 43, a right-handed knuckleball master who has pitched in the major leagues for the Boston Red Sox since 1995.