Baseball just got a little less traditional. Eri Yoshida, a Japanese woman who is 5-foot-1 and 115-pounds, has taken the professional baseball world by storm with her sidearm knuckleball.
The 18-year-old pitched on Saturday, May 29 for the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League, and became the first professional woman pitcher in the United States since Ila Borders in 2000.
The knuckleball is the hardest pitch to throw and hit. Once the ball leaves the pitcher’s finger tips, it dances around like a falling leaf caught in crisscrossed winds until it hopefully lands in the catcher’s glove. Even the pitcher him/herself only has a general idea of where the ball will end up.
Yoshida’s doesn’t disappoint. Some of the knucklers she threw were compared to her idol’s, Tim Wakefield. She pitched a scoreless first inning in her debut, before giving up four runs in her last two frames. She even contributed a RBI single in her first at bat. Her stats: five hits, four runs and one walk in three innings. Not bad considering the amount of pressure and excitement that must have coursed through her history making veins.
Yoshida’s competition was no joke, too. It was second only to the Majors.
“Look at the rosters,” Mike Marshall, Yoshdia’s manager on the Yuma Scorpions, and a former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder, explained to the Associated Press(AP). “You have Double-A, Triple-A, big-league guys. This isn’t affiliated rookie ball; this isn’t affiliated A-ball. This is way up there. These are 25- to 35-year-old men she’s playing against.”
Yoshida has made it pretty far. But, just like with any knuckleball, I’m concerned about where Yoshida will end up.
I love this whole story. In the most traditional sport of sports, Yoshida, who pitched in an independent league in Japan last year, is a great breath of fresh air. What I fear most about her accomplishment is it turning into nothing more but a meaningless spectacle.
No doubt her current team is going to make money thanks to her presence. Yoshida is a true rarity, and fans of baseball and human interest stories will come out in waves to see her pitch. The Outlaws held a Girl Power Night during her debut, and are now showing all of their home games online. Yoshida is a money maker. She even has a stage name: Knuckle Princess.
Her presence makes the game about more than just baseball. It’s history. It’s spectacle. But which one will win?
Does Yoshida have a real chance to make history? Could she one day go head-to-head with an actual MLB batter? Maybe even participate in a knuckler’s pitcher duel with Wakefield?
Here’s what one commenter on the AP had to say: As a pitcher in Chico trying to make it myself, I have to disagree with hiring a women just because she brings in alot of cash for the team. I know it is a business, but she is taking the place of someone much better who has a real shot. I have seen her pitch and she is below average at best. Anybody can be a knuckleball pitcher. Pitchers don’t go that route because it just doesn’t work very well. I could start being a knuckleball pitcher tomorrow and be just as effective and wouldn’t even be considered. On a positive note, I am glad she is inspiring many young girls to play, and after all that is the whole point. To bring joy to fans.
Not many pitchers go the knuckleball route, because the knuckleball is hard to master. Yoshida’s unspectacular performance could be due to carrying the weight of baseball history on her finger tips. There is an underlining tone to the pitcher from Chico’s statement. A woman pitching among men is seen as nothing more than a gimmick right from the start.
This best represents what most closed-minded people will think.
“A woman should be confined to the world of softball. Leave the Big Leagues to the men” has for too long been the way of the baseball world. And as long as people keep to this way of thinking, women with MLB talent will have their goals crushed before their spikes ever dig into a mound.
I sincerely hope that the whole point of Yoshida’s story isn’t “to bring joy to fans.” I’m sure she would agree. She, like any player in the minors, is trying to make it to the Majors. MLB has for too long stuck to its archaic traditions, and has fought the chance to evolve at every turn. Just look at how long its taken instant replay to join the game. Just look at how a limited form of instant replay prevented history on Wednesday night.
People will cry afoul at the thought of a woman pitching at any angle other than underhanded.
Yoshida deserves to have the chance for her dreams to come true. She deserves a chance to make real history. The shackles of MLB tradition will never be loosened as long as women players are nothing more than a Girl Power Night attraction.
The team name, Outlaws, seems fitting for this 18-year-old woman. Yoshida herself is an under aged, opposite sex player, upsetting the traditional laws of baseball. I pray her signature pitch evolves into an un-hittable force that yells at MLB, “Bring on the big boys!” because what’s the point of inspiring young girls to play, if they’ll never have a chance to stand on a MLB mound?