By Regina Varolli
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Eri Yoshida, the first woman to play professional baseball in Japan, is mulling over a chance to play professional league baseball in the United States for the Chico Outlaws, based in Chico, Calif.
Before pitching for Yuma this past winter, Yoshida was a relief pitcher for the Kobe 9 Cruise of Japan's newly formed Kansai Independent League. Then only 16, she was the first woman to play professional baseball in Japan. At the time, Japan's press called the move a publicity stunt by the fledgling Kansai League.
In press reports during the Arizona Winter League, Yoshida said she was disappointed with her performance in a few games pitching for the Yuma Scorpions.
Nonetheless, Outcalt told Women's eNews that "her performance was impressive enough for the Outlaws to take notice."
Outcalt said he's excited about Yoshida's future in the sport. " Man or woman, Eri Yoshida is a great baseball player," he said.
If Yoshida joins the Chico Outlaws she'll have a notable forerunner in Jackie Mitchell, from Fall River, Mass., who pitched for the Minor League's Chattanooga Lookouts of Tennessee.
Mitchell gained fame at age 17 when she struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees on April 2, 1931. Shortly thereafter, her contract with the Lookouts was canceled.
Despite striking out, Babe Ruth said women didn't have much of a future in the sport because of their size. He also said they were too delicate for the rigors of professional baseball.
"Of course with that long-held attitude women haven't had a chance," said author Ring. "In the U.S. they're not given any support or encouragement to play professional baseball. Most young girls who show talent for the sport are actually pushed to abandon baseball by age 11 or 12 for careers in softball."
Ring added that women in Japan get more encouragement.
"I'm not surprised that this pitcher is from Japan because they don't have the same social and cultural hang-ups we have in America," she said. "It's ironic that America's national sport--its national pastime--excludes half the nation's population."
Regina Varolli is a freelance writer and editor based in Manhattan and the owner of Words by Regina Varolli. She blogs about food at Culinary Sagacity.
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