- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2009

OSAKA, JAPAN (AP) - This is a testa of the Associated Press and is not intended for Publication or Broadcasting.

Japan’s first female professional baseball player made her debut Friday, striking out one batter in the ninth inning of her team’s first game of the season.

Eri Yoshida, a 17-year-old who throws a sidearm knuckleball, took the mound in the ninth inning of Kobe 9 Cruise’s 5-0 win over the Osaka Gold Villicanes in the newly-formed Kansai Independent League.

She 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 just two batters.

The 5-foot, 114-pound Yoshida is hoping to stick with the Kobe team. Friday’s performance was far from conclusive but at least she has the first strikeout of her career.

“I wasn’t thinking about anything other than just going out there and giving it my all,” Yoshida said. “I think this was a bad result but the stadium is great and the fans were really cheering me on. I want to be able to pitch more innings and become a pitcher who can be relied upon.”

Yoshida created a stir when she signed a contract in December to become Japan’s first female professional baseball player.

Some speculated the move was more of a publicity stunt by the team to generate interest in the new league. There were 11,592 spectators in the 45,000-seat stadium for Friday’s game

Yoshida, who started playing baseball when she was in second grade, said she wants to emulate Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, who has built a successful major league career as a knuckleballer.

Until now, no woman had ever played against men in Japan. A women’s professional baseball federation was established in 1950 but its activities ceased 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 such as the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants.





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