A 16-year-old schoolgirl is making a unique pitch to become the first woman to play professional baseball in Japan.Whether it's inspired by fastballs from Jeannie Finch or ill-advised comments from Keith Hernandez, the subject of women playing professional baseball comes up every couple of years. My take each time it comes around: (a) I'd love to see it, because you know that ballplayers would say all kinds of stupid things if it happened, and ballplayers saying stupid things makes for great blogging; (b) if we do see it, it will take the form of a deceptive knuckleballer like this Yoshida appears to be; but (c) we probably won't see it outside of the independent leagues any time soon, if ever, because baseball is a really damn conservative institution that, at least in this day and age, isn't all that willing to take chances.
High school student Eri Yoshida was drafted by the Kobe 9 Cruise, a professional team in a new independent Japanese league that will start its first season in April.
"I always dreamed of becoming a professional," Yoshida, who is 5-feet (152-centimeters) tall and weighs 114 pounds (52 kilograms), told a news conference Monday. "I have only just been picked by the team and haven't achieved anything yet."
Yoshida throws a side-arm knuckleball and says she wants to follow in the footsteps of Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, who has built a successful major league career throwing a knuckleball.
None of this, by the way, constitutes an opinion on my part regarding whether a woman could be successful in professional baseball. Yes, I've heard all of the arguments (all of which are required by law to include the phrase "upper body strength"), but I have no idea if it's possible. Part of me looks at the David Wells and Dimitri Youngs of the world and thinks "man, there HAS to be a dozen women who could do what those slobs can do." Part of me looks at Tim Wakefield and notes that even he has to sneak in an accurate 80+ MPH "fastball" once in a while, and there aren't even a ton of men who can do that.
NOTE: I don't have a particularly dirty mind, and I'm not that big a conspiracy theorist, but when I read the headline Sports Illustrated chose to run with this story, I can't help but think that they were hoping for the extra traffic that may come from guys with no interest in baseball Googling the phrase "Japanese teen girl."
(thanks to Alex Brissette for the heads up)