Female Athletes and Boots Month - Baseball Night:
Eri Yoshida 吉田えり
Eri Yoshida is a 20 year old Japanese female pitcher who has played professionally in the United States for the last three seasons. Eri was originally drafted by the Kobe 9 Cruise of the Japanese baseball league after high school, then signed with the Chico Outlaws チコ・アウトローズ when she was 18 years old. Er is 5'1 and weighs 115 lbs. Eri is only one of a handful of females who have played professionally in the United States and the first female to play professionally in over 10 years.
Eri's nickname is the Knuckle Princess ナックル姫 because she throws a knuckleball. Eri learned to throw the knuckleball from watching video of former Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield. In 2010, Eri met Wakefield and he gave her some pointers on how to throw the pitch. Eri's "fastball" has been clocked at 63 mph and she throws her knuckleball at 50 mph. Eri's delivery is similar to that of Hall of Famer Tom Seaver becasuse she drags her knee on the ground. One difference is that she throws the ball from a side-arm position to help hide the ball from the hitter. A knuckleball moves differently from other pitches and for this reason it is difficult to hit. It is also difficult to throw, which is why so few pitchers throw it.
Eri pitched the 2010 season for Chico, but the Outlaws disbanded during the 2011 season, so Eri signed with the Maui Na Koa Ikaika after pitching for the Hyogo Blue Thunders, an independent team in Japan.
Eri began the 2012 season 3-0. For the season Eri is 4-6 with a 5.56 ERA in 10 starts. Eri has experienced control problem throughout her career, as most knuckle ball pitchers do. But Eri is third on her team in win and fifth in innings pitched. At 20 years old, she is the youngest listed member of her team.
Effective knuckleball pitchers can have very successful careers. Phil Niekro won 318 games in the Major Leagues and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame after he retired at the age of 46; His brother Joe Niekro was an All-Star and won 221 games when he retired at the age of 43; Charlie Hough also pitched until he was 46 years old and won 216 games. Recently, R.A. Dickey learned the knuckleball and is on his way to a 20 win season and possible Cy Young Award at the age of 37. Eri is still very young and has plenty of time to perfect her craft.
Boot Nation roots for Eri every time she pitches. Perhaps she will be the first female to play in the Major Leagues.