OSAKA, Japan -- Japan's first female professional baseball player made her debut Friday, striking out one batter in the ninth inning.
Eri Yoshida, a 17-year-old who throws a sidearm knuckleball, took the mound during Kobe 9 Cruise's 5-0 season-opening win over the Osaka Gold Villicanes in the newly formed Kansai Independent League.
The 5-foot, 114-pounder walked the first batter leading off the inning on four pitches and allowed a stolen base before striking out the next batter swinging at Osaka Dome. She was then replaced after facing two batters.
Yoshida created a stir when she signed a contract in December. Some speculated the move was more of a publicity stunt to generate interest in the new league. There were 11,592 fans in the 45,000-seat stadium Friday.
Yoshida started playing baseball when she was in second grade and hopes to emulate Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
Until now, no woman had played against men in Japan. A women's professional baseball federation was established in 1950 but it stopped after two seasons.
The Cruise and the other three teams in the Kansai league are more like farm teams and are a far cry from Japan's mainstream pro teams.
Hmmm, let's see five feet and 114 pounds what happens when the enemy hitters start dropping bunts into that tricky area between the pitcher's mound and the third-base line? Will Yoshida have the quickness and the arm strength to throw anyone out at first base? And speaking of arm strength, what happens when the count is three balls and no strikes? Or what happens when there's a grounder to the first baseman and she has to cover first base and gets run over by some burly first baseman?
A publicity stunt? Why would anyone think that?
David Pinto writes, "I've thought for a while that the path for women to professional baseball would be through the knuckleball. Glad to see that happened in Japan."
Well, yeah; it might be. You have to admire her dream and her persistence and her skills (or skill). But you can't play if you don't have the requisite physical tools, too.