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Eri Yoshida, Female Pitcher, To Play Pro Baseball In U.S.

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TOKYO — A female knuckleball pitcher from Japan will be playing for a minor league team in the United States.

Eri Yoshida, an 18-year-old pitcher who played pro ball in Japan last year, signed with the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League. The team said she will report to spring training next month.

The 10-team Golden Baseball League is an independent minor league with teams in California, Arizona and Canada.

"I am grateful for this opportunity to pitch for the Chico Outlaws," Yoshida said. "This is a dream come true for me, and I hope I can contribute to the team and help them win and also to continue to improve as a pro baseball player."

Yoshida will be the first female to pitch for a pro team in the United States since Ila Borders retired more than 10 years ago, the team said.

"We are really looking forward to having Eri as a member of the Chico Outlaws this season," team president Mike Marshall said.

Yoshida learned how to throw a knuckleball by watching video of Tim Wakefield. Last month, she got a few tips from the Boston Red Sox pitcher at the team's spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla.

Yoshida, who throws her knuckleball with a sidearm motion, pitched in the independent Arizona Winter League. She got her first win on Feb. 12, tossing four shutout innings for the Yuma Scorpions.

The 5-foot, 114-pound 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 was 0-2 in 11 appearances with a 4.03 ERA, giving up seven runs in 10 2-3 innings.

The Outlaws open on the road May 21 in Tijuana and return for their home opener on May 26. The team is making accommodations to provide separate locker room facilities and hotel rooms while traveling.

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