Big in Japan: The cutest pitcher you’ve ever seen!

In a classic scene from the film A League of their Own, coach Jimmy Dugan (played by Tom Hanks) screams at his female players: ‘There’s no crying in baseball!’

Of course, while there may have been a Hollywood ending for Madonna and Geena Davis, there is still very much a prominent glass ceiling in real-life baseball.

However, there is a chance that the sport as we know it may one day change, especially following the recent draft pick of a female Japanese high school student by the minor league team Kobe 9 Cruise.

On that note, allow me to introduce you to the cutest pitcher you’ve ever seen, namely 16-year old Eri Yoshida (??????????). Weighing in at a mere 114 pounds, and standing just over give feet tall, Eri is now the first woman ever to play in Japan’s all-male professional baseball league.

How did she do it you ask? Simple.

Eri has mastered the knuckleball, an infamous baseball pitch characterized by its wild and unpredictable motion.

Keep reading as the story goes on..

A knuckleball is special type of baseball pitch that is thrown in such way as to minimize the spin of the ball in flight. Through the miracles of physics, knucklers can change direction erratically, and even corkscrew in mid-flight, which is needless to say a ripe pain in the ass for unsuspecting batters.

In Major League Baseball (MLB), a few players over the decades have been able to master this phantom pitch, including Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield. Indeed, this BoSox legend served as the inspiration for a 16-year-old high school pupil from Yokohama to pitch her way through rows and rows of male batters.

According to Eri Yoshida: “I never dreamed of getting drafted. I have only just been picked by the team and haven’t achieved anything yet.”

She continues: “I’m really happy I stuck with baseball. I want to pitch against men, and eventually I want to play as a pro in a higher league.”

Although Japan is a baseball-obsessed nation, women have had a tough time getting on the diamond. While there was a professional baseball league for women in the 1950s, it folded after just two years.

In fact, the country’s professional baseball federation did not lift its ban on female players until 1991, and Little League teams only started accepting girls this millennium. Of course, the Kobe 9 Cruise aren’t exactly the New York Yankees – or the Tokyo Giants for that matter – and it’s going take a bit of time for young Yoshida-san to have her big shot at the pros.

In the meantime, the Japanese are celebrating a crack in the glass ceiling that looms over professional sports. The Asahi Shimbun, one of the country’s top papers, even ran a detailed analysis of her unique pitching style. However, Eri is trying to keep her grip a secret, so you’re going to have to catch a farm game over here in Kobe if you want to see this rising star in action!

(Special thanks to my Dad for uncovering this bit of J-news in the local Vegas paper!)

** Image of Eri Yoshida taken by the Associated Press (AP). All other images courtesy of the WikiCommons Media project **