Lady Knuckle On the Way

Posted by at 13 April, at 08 : 00 AM Print

Eri Yoshida Signs With Chico Outlaws of Golden Baseball League
1st Female to Play Pro Ball in Japan Brings Knuckleball And Big League Dreams to the U.S.
From Chico Outlaws

(Chico, CA. April 8, 2010) The Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League (GBL), the premier independent minor league in western North America, today announced that Japanese pitching sensation Eri Yoshida has agreed to terms where the 18 year-old female sidearm knuckleball pitcher will play for Chico this summer, reporting to spring training in early May.

Yoshida, 18, made headlines and impressed the baseball world last summer when she became the first female to play professionally in Japan. Equipped with a sidearm knuckleball that is considered almost unhittable when she is on, she debuted for the Kobe Cruise 9 of the Kansai League in Japan on opening day as she walked one and struck out one in front of 12,000 fans. She began playing baseball in the 2nd grade and credits Tim Wakefield as the inspiration for her 50 mph knuckleball delivered from her 5 foot 2 inch, 115 lb frame.

She went on to pitch in the Arizona Winter League in February of this year, where she had good success in the top winter development league for pro players in the U.S., including throwing 4 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball against Team Canada. She went on to spend some time at the Boston Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida in March and had a chance to throw with Wakefield, who gave her instruction and was very positive regarding her knuckleball. She impressed both Chico Outlaws Manager Garry Templeton (former Padre All-Star) and Team President Mike Marshall (former Dodger All-Star) who made the decision to sign her for this coming season.

“We are really looking forward to having Eri as a member of the Chico Outlaws this season,” said Chico Outlaws team president Mike Marshall. “The Outlaws are one of the leading teams in moving players to major league organizations and will be a fine showcase for her to show her talent. In addition, it will be a treat for our fans and our community as well.”

Yoshida will be the first female to pitch for a pro team in the U.S. since Ila Borders retired over 10 years ago and the only female to ever pitch in pro leagues in two countries. The team is making special accomodations regarding separate locker room facilities and hotel rooms while traveling on roadtrips, but otherwise she will be like any other rookie pitcher starting her pro career. The Golden League will be a good test of her abilities as typical rosters are filled with major league, AAA, and AA experienced ballplayers with a few rookies per team as well. Playing a 90 game season in 100 days, the league stretches from western Canada to Hawaii, through California and northern Mexico and into Arizona and Utah as well.

“I believe that she is ready for this and has the potential to do very well,” said Chico Outlaws manager Garry Templeton. “I watched her in the Arizona Winter League and was impressed with the way she handled herself on and off the field, her determination and commitment, and her ability to integrate into a league of almost 200 pro players. Like any knuckleballer, when she was on she was very difficult to hit and when she wasn’t good hitters would tee off. I’m excited to have her on the team and to watch her continue to improve and develop and progess up the pro ranks.”

“I am grateful for this opportunity to pitch for the Chico Outlaws,” said Yoshida. “This is a dream come true for me and I hope that I can contribute to the team to help them win and also to continue to improve as a pro baseball player.”

A press conference and signing ceremony is set for Tuesday, April 13th in Tokyo. The Outlaws open on the road in Tijuana and return for their home opener on Wednesday, May 26th.

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