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Japanese Female Knuckleballer Emulates Wakefield

Female pitcher Eri Yoshida says she hopes to follow in the footsteps of her hero Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox when she heads to the minor leagues next month.

The 18-year-old Yoshida is a knuckleballer who told a news conference Tuesday she learned her pitching style as a young girl by watching video of Wakefield.

She also recently got a few tips from the 43-year-old All-Star at the Red Sox spring training facility at Fort Myers, Fla.

"I want to practice knuckle pitching more, and I want to become a stable knuckleball player like Wakefield," Yoshida said.

Yoshida, Japan's first female professional baseball player, has signed with the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League and will report for spring training in early May.

She 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 Outlaws said.

The 5-foot Yoshida said she was stunned by the height of American players, but stressed she is ready to play in the United States.

"I want to bring myself to concentrate only on the catcher's mitt without worrying about the height of players," she said. "I'll do my best."

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

Yoshida became Japan's first female professional player last year when she pitched for the Kobe Cruise 9 in the Kansai Independent League.