What’s Going on with Eri Yoshida?
In years past I have frequently written about Japan’s “Knuckle Princess” Eri Yoshida, most recently in June 2014. Since then, I have periodically looked for information on the internet about her goings-on, but by and large there hasn’t been a whole lot to report.
On June 29, 2015, Eri won her first game for the Ishikawa Million Stars of Japan’s Baseball Challenge League, basically a Japanese Independent-A league. Eri had been associated with the Million Stars since 2013, so that first win was a long time coming.
In 2016, she tried out for Japan’s Women’s Team and reportedly gave up her knuckleball during her try-outs, instead trying to make the team as a “normal” pitcher. However, she was not one of the six pitchers to make the team.
Japan’s Women’s team is the best in the world, going 8-0 in the Women’s Baseball World Cup held in September 2016, with four of the games complete routs that ended early due to a ten-run mercy rule and a championship game in which Japan beat Canada 10-0. Even so, Yoshida has been playing with men for years, so her inability to make Japan’s Women’s team strongly suggests her participation in male leagues has been solely as a box office attraction, rather than based on any actual ability. Either that, or she should have stuck with the knuckleball during try-outs.
Yoshida turns 25 in January, so she is still young. I was once hopeful that she would develop her knuckleball and become at least a legitimate Indy-A pitcher. I definitely believe that the very best female pitchers could at least compete at the Indy-A level, as Ila Borders did in the Northern League in 1999. It is not yet out of the realm of possibility that Yoshida could do it too, but after essentially no professional progress since the 2012 season, I’m not particularly hopeful. The bloom is definitely off Yoshida’ rose at this point.
If Yoshida intends to continue to pitch professionally, she might be best served returning to the U.S. and playing in one of what I call the fly-by-night Indy-A leagues, like California’s Pacific Association, for example, that are the bottom tier of the American Indy-A leagues. I suspect Japan’s Baseball Challenge League is too good a league for Yoshida’s currently modest baseball talents.