Japonica – Eri Yoshida
by Jack Nakamoto
This month we introduce a new column, Japonica, by Jack Nakamoto. A resident of Ottawa, Jack compiles short articles based on interesting news items coming out of Japan. I asked Jack to write a little about himself.
Born and bought up in Vancouver’s Japantown, I aspired to join the Japanese Army as Kagoshima Prefecture had produced famous soldiers and my dad had served in the Russo-Japanese War, but in my late teens, when I discovered the atrocities committed against Chinese civilians, I decided to join the Canadian Army. However, I wasn’t accepted in Vancouver, so I moved on to Moose Jaw, riding the box cars. When fellow hobos broke into an empty passenger coach, we were all arrested and charged. Instead of paying a fine, I chose to be jailed for seven days. As the town jail was filled to capacity, I was shipped to the provincial penitentiary in Moosomin, Saskatchewan. I then hitchhiked to Winnipeg, where I wasn’t accepted, so rode the box cars to various towns and cities, none of which accepted me, till I reached Quebec City where the Salvation Army recommended me after working there as a kitchen help.
In England, as I was corresponding with my dad in Japanese, I was at times given some Japanese newspapers to translate pending transfer to Japanese Military Language School in Camp Savage in Minnesota. However, during the training of erecting Bailey pontoon bridge I was soaked in water and contracted wet pleurisy and shipped back to Canada for hospitalization. I then attended Sir George Williams College in Montreal and got a government job in Ottawa writing informational materials. Studying cartooning and senryu, a Japanese poem with 17 syllables, I produced a bilingual cartoon book with a foreword by a Japanese ambassador. Having written on the Internet over 500 one-page articles called Japonica which is a capsule info on Japan, I hope to compile them into a book. So I am looking for a grant to produce the book.
Eri Yoshida, an 18-year-old female knuckleball pitcher from Japan made her US professional debut pitching for the Chico Outlaws against the Tyana Cimarrones in a Golden Baseball League game in Chico, California on Saturday May 29, 2010.
She became the first woman to pitch professionally in the United States in a decade, and showed that she and her sidearm knuckler can hang in with male pitchers.
Yoshida learned to throw the knuckleball as a young girl from watching Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox. She taught herself the pitch and never had any formal coaching for how to throw the knuckler until meeting her idol during spring training in Florida earlier this year.
For knuckleball, the ball is held with the knuckles or with fingertips and is thrown so as to minimize the spin of the ball and change direction in mid-flight which makes it difficult for batter to hit.
Yoshida became Japan’s first female pro baseball player last year when she pitched for the Kobe Cruise 9 in the Kansai Independent League. She then went to the Arizona Winter League this past off-season, where her manager on the Yuma Scorpions, former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mike Marshall, was impressed enough to get her a shot in Chico, where Marshall is the president and general manager.
Marshall said he has no doubt Yoshida has the makeup to handle this historic challenge. He said the biggest factor in determining how far she will be able to take it will be how much stronger she gets in the next years. She is 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 115 pounds.
Chico Outlaws said that the Baseball Hall of Fame has asked for the jersey and bat Eri Yoshida used in her debut with the team last weekend for a display in Cooperstown, New York.