Interesting story from the AP (and video from ESPN):
The fraternity of knuckleball pitchers is small, and Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox is its active godfather.
Eri Yoshida hopes to expand that roster and break the gender barrier at the same time.
Yoshida, the petite 18-year-old who became the first female drafted by a Japanese professional team, Kobe 9 Cruise of the Kansai Independent Baseball League, made her pro debut on March 26, 2009, at the Osaka Dome. She learned how to throw a knuckleball as a young girl by watching video of Wakefield.
On Tuesday, at the Red Sox player development complex, Yoshida, wearing a gray Boston T-shirt with Wakefield's name and number on the back, met her idol and pitched with him.
"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."
Yoshida, who stands 5-foot-1 and throws her knuckleball with a sidearm motion, is in the United States to pitch in the independent Arizona Winter League. She got her first win on Feb. 12, tossing four shutout innings for the Yuma Scorpions.
The gender barriers in sports are set at various heights. It's harder to imagine a woman playing in, say, the NFL than competing against men in golf, auto racing or bowling. The idea of this knuckleballer is intriguing because throwing a good knuckler is such a specific skill. Most knuckleballers who have made it to the big leagues have batting practice fastballs. Maybe Yoshida could make it?