This story in today's Globe and Mail combines everything I love in a story: Female Athletes, Japanese Baseball, and Knuckleballers.
Eri Yoshida, a 16-year old young woman and high school student in Japan has been drafted to play for the Kobe 9 Cruise, a professional baseball team in Kobe, Japan that is part of a new, 4-team league in Western Japan. Of course it is a low-level professional league, but Eri, who is all of 155 centimetres (5 feet) tall and 52 kg (114 pounds), not to mention just 16, will be the first woman to play professional baseball in Japan (alongside the men, that is - Japan, like the U.S., briefly had a professional woman's league post WWII).
Yoshida throws a knuckleball from a sidearm arm slot and her manager, Yoshihiro Nakata, describes the pitch as having good down and away movement. Eri grew up playing baseball with her older brother and has always played on all-male teams. She says she was inspired to throw the knuckler after seeing a video of Tim Wakefield and wants to follow in his footsteps. Wakefield, for his part, was very gracious about it and also had kind words for the knucklers he grew up watching, including, of course, our old friend Tom Candiotti.
Congratulations to Eri Yoshida and best of luck with the 9 Cruise and in her future career! And if you'll excuse me, I have to go teach my 21 month-old the knuckleball grip so that she can be the first woman in american pro baseball...