By Philip Riccobono
On the eve of history, Japan’s Eri Yoshida on the steps of the Chico Outlaws dugout, waits for her big moment alongside teammates, joking, chatting and tossing a ball just like any other baseball player, and out of uniform, the 5’1 Yoshida might appear as your typical 18-year old girl, but none have done what she embarks on. On May 29 she will make baseball history as the first female to pitch in the United States and Japan. Eri just completed high school in Japan, and as her classmates prepare for college, she’ll study former major league hitters in the lineup of the opposing Tijuana Cimmarones.
Yoshida took a few minutes to talk with both Japanese and American media after taking pictures, admiring the Outlaws fireworks show, a tradition across many American ballparks and the pitcher has also acquired some other American tastes. “I like Subway,” said Yoshida. The “Knuckle Princess”, her nickname she brought with her from Japan, embraces the new experience when she faces the Tijuana Cimmarones. “It will bring me to the next step of my career.”
Since her arrival from Japan, earlier this month to play for the Chico Outlaws, part of Golden League Baseball, an independent league, Yoshida puts baseball before anything, leaving no time for recreation in her journey, but she does strive to improve on her English too, and she’s picking up English from the media. She even got an impromptu mini-lesson. “I am exciting,” said Yoshida, with a smile from ear-to-ear, marked by dimples. Her story continues to excite the baseball world. The Outlaws Dan Hawkins, Media Relations Director/Play-by-Play announcer expects over 50 media representatives at Nettleton Stadium to cover Yoshida’s historic first-pitch. “We’ve had a record amount of requests.”
Golden League President, Kevin Outcalt knows the magnitude of this event. “We have Eri pitching against a strong Tijuana team with fellow Major League hitters in their organization,” said Outcalt, a former Cisco Systems Executive who helped launch the Golden Baseball League. “It should be a great night for Chico and a historic night for Eri.”