Female pitcher makes history in Japan
Side-arming knuckleballer notches strikeout in pro debut
Thousands of miles away from any hint of the Major Leagues, history was made in professional baseball on Friday.
That's when Eri Yoshida, a 17-year-old with a wicked sidearm knuckleball, took her 5-foot, 114-pound frame to the mound to become Japan's first female professional pitcher, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Back in December, Yoshida signed a contract to join the Kobe 9 Cruise, one of four teams in Japan's newly formed Kansai Independent League, and made her first appearance Friday in the ninth inning of the first game of the season in Osaka, Japan.
The result? Not too bad.
Yoshida walked the first batter on four straight pitches, then gave up a stolen base, but struck out the next batter swinging before being taken out, as her club picked up a 5-0 win over the Osaka Gold Villicanes in front of 11,592 at the Osaka Dome, according to AP.
"I wasn't thinking about anything other than just going out there and giving it my all," Yoshida, who emulates Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, was quoted as saying by AP. "I think this was a bad result, but the stadium is great and the fans were really cheering me on. I want to be able to pitch more innings and become a pitcher who can be relied upon."
Yoshida, who started playing baseball while in the second grade, said she hopes to stick with the Cruise.
Until now, no woman had ever played against men in Japan, according to AP.
The Kansai Independent League is said to be more of a farm system for bigger teams, like the Yomiuri Giants. Yoshida's signing was originally looked upon as a publicity stunt in order to garner interest in the new league, AP reported.
Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.