Knuckle Princess

Eri Yoshida is working toward fulfilling her dreams of becoming a major league pitcher

March 11, 2012
(NBHOF Library)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Making the big leagues is a dream held by millions of young boys on baseball diamonds all over the world.

But lesser-known perhaps, it is also held by little girls.
The latest example is knuckleball pitcher Eri Yoshida, the Japanese pitching sensation who debuted in pro ball in the United States for the Golden Baseball League’s Chico Outlaws. The first female to pitch professionally in two countries, Yoshida donated her game-worn uniform and game-used bat from her May 29, 2010 debut to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Eri Yoshida's achievements have added another chapter to the historic roles women are playing in professional baseball," said National Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson. "We are pleased that she has agreed to donate her Chico Outlaws game jersey and bat from her first appearance in a professional game. As the first woman to collect a hit in a men's professional league since the Negro Leagues era, these artifacts will enable us to further illustrate how women are shaping the game today."

Eighteen-year-old Yoshida retired seven of the first 10 batters she faced, and also recorded her first professional base hit and RBI – the first hit by a woman in a pro game in more than 50 years.

“I like the idea of more women playing baseball,” Yoshida said before the game.

Yoshida idolized Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield growing up and dreamed of being the first woman to pitch in the big leagues. She met her idol in 2010 during Spring Training.

"I'm impressed," Wakefield said. "She spun a couple, but for the most part it was very good. She was able to take the spin out of a lot of them and they had quite a lot of movement on them."

In 2011, the 5-foot-1 hurler started the season in Chico and finished it with Maui Na Koa Ikaika of the North American League. She won the last game Maui played and is set to be back on the roster in 2012.

Samantha Carr is the former manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum