December 17, 2009
Pack up your cameras and head to the American desert, oh ye baseball curiosity seekers!
Eri Yoshida and her famous knuckleball are making a move to the United States.
After becoming the first female to play pro baseball in Japan last spring, the 17-year-old pitcher is planning on playing in the instructional Arizona Winter League. Yoshida will report to the Yuma Scorpions in late January and participate in the short-season instructional league, which began in 2007 and is not affiliated with MLB.
For those unfamiliar with Yoshida's story, she stands 5-foot-1 and her Tim Wakefield(notes)-inspired knuckleball clocks in around 50 MPH. She made her debut in the Kansai Independent Baseball League last March and made 11 appearances, going 0-2 before moving on.
Yoshida is ostensibly coming to the winter league to attract the attention of professional scouts and garner a minor league contract, but Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports has his doubts on how well she'll fare.
"A knuckleball takes a lot in the way of touch, practice and experience to get right. And even if you get a respectable one, you have to be able to keep them honest with an occasional fastball or something. Even Wakefield does that, with a fastball that would be pretty darn good for a lot of seventeen year-olds. Call me crazy, but I can't see Yoshida possessing respectable enough gas to throw a get-me-over pitch when the knuckler isn't dancing."
Seeing as how Yoshida's speed tops out in the mid-60s, I have a hunch that Craig's hunch will turn out to be correct. It's going to be tough going for Yoshida as she faces hitters with similar major league aspirations — especially if she faces them more than once.
Hers will still be a fun story to follow, though, and we wish Eri a lot of luck with her dream.