Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Lady And The Knuckleball

It's March, and time for baseball. Here's a baseball story that I found heartwarming:

The fraternity of knuckleball pitchers is small, and Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox is its active godfather.

Eri Yoshida hopes to expand that roster and break the gender barrier at the same time.

Yoshida, the petite 18-year-old who became the first female drafted by a Japanese professional team, Kobe 9 Cruise of the Kansai Independent Baseball League, made her pro debut on March 26, 2009, at the Osaka Dome. She learned how to throw a knuckleball as a young girl by watching video of Wakefield.

On Tuesday, at the Red Sox player development complex, Yoshida, wearing a gray Boston T-shirt with Wakefield's name and number on the back, met her idol and pitched with him.

"I'm impressed," Wakefield said. "She spun a couple, but for the most part it was very good. She was able to take the spin out of a lot of them and they had quite a lot of movement on them."

Yoshida, who stands 5-foot-1 and throws her knuckleball with a sidearm motion, is in the United States to pitch in the independent Arizona Winter League. She got her first win on Feb. 12, tossing four shutout innings for the Yuma Scorpions. But she admitted she was nervous working with the 43-year-old Wakefield.

(cool video at the link, BTW)

At age 18 and 5'1", Eri Yoshida has already progressed further than any female before her in professional baseball. The knuckleball is notoriously difficult to pitch, and almost impossible to hit. I know that when I faced a knuckler in college ball (many years ago, and I only faced one), I realized that there was absolutely no way that I could hit the pitch. So I basically took every pitch and hoped that I could draw a walk (knuckleball's are hard to throw for strikes).

So here's wishing Eri the very best of success in her career. Even if she doesn't become a star, maybe she'll inspire more young women into baseball.


One Fly said...

I like a good story and hardball was my sport and pitching was what I did well. Could not throw a knuckleball.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

I think this is kewler'n'squat! I would LOVE to see a 5'1 girl flinging knucks at the American league...wadda hoot!