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Teen Girl Eyeing History by Entering Korean Pro Baseball

Teen Girl Eyeing History by Entering Korean Pro Baseball

Posted April. 22, 2009 06:48,   


Eri Yoshida in December last year made history by becoming the first female baseball player in Japan.

Yoshida, 17, a graduate of Kawasaki Kita High School, was picked seventh in the minor league draft by the expansion team Kansai in Kobe. She is small with a height of 155 centimeters and weight of 50 kilograms, but has a mean knuckleball.

With an annual salary of 1.8 million yen a year (18,332 U.S. dollars), she entered a game March 27 in Osaka as a relief pitcher in the ninth inning. Kansai was up 5-0 with no outs and a man on second base.

Yoshida gave up a walk and had a strikeout, but was pulled. Afterwards, she disappeared due to a shoulder injury, but her historic appearance remained a hot topic among baseball fans in Japan.

Will Korea also see a woman play professional baseball? Perhaps it might in Korean American Jane Eo, 19. She tried out last year for the Kia Tigers, Samsung Lions and SK Wyverns.

Eo failed because, in the words of one scout, “Though she has basic skills, she lacks power compared to men.”

She tried out again for SK at the team’s spring training in Japan’s Kochi Prefecture in February but failed again.

Eo cried as she walked away from the Kochi baseball park with her father. She remained in bed for days over her rejection before deciding to try again. Resuming batting practice, she said, “I cannot give up and return to the United States at this point.”

She will try out at Korea’s first national amateur tryout at Shinwol Baseball Stadium in Seoul Saturday and Sunday. Hosted by the Korea Business Baseball Federation, the event attracts high school and college players and journeymen.

Eo said, “My goal is to win recognition as a player on par with male players.”

● Overcoming gender discrimination

“They said I was unqualified after a one-day tryout. I still cannot give up. I cannot live a day without baseball,” Eo said.

Eo began playing baseball at age 11, saying she liked pitching and hitting the ball. She became the first Korean American to join the U.S. national team.

She started at shortstop at the third World Women’s Baseball World Cup in August last year, leading the United States to third place. Though a shortstop, she also played pitcher.

Eo’s fastball has been timed as fast as 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour and she has a batting average of .300.

Nevertheless, she has repeatedly failed to impress a professional team. Refusing to give up, she is undergoing strength training by running up steps at Goyang Stadium dozens of times per day and lifting barbells again and again.

She also practiced with the Chungam High School baseball team, this year’s national champion.

● Diamond dream continues

Eo was born in the United States. She learned about Korea in 2006, when Korea advanced to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.

She started learning Korean and began thinking about playing baseball in her motherland. She moved in with her father in the Ilsan district of Goyang, a northern Seoul suburb, in July last year.

Receiving her residence visa last month, Eo is teaching English at a foreign language institute at night to become economically independent.

Yosida’s role model is Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, a knuckleball specialist. Eo says she likes New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

Yosida realized her dream while Eo is still pursuing hers.

“It doesn’t matter whether I become an amateur or a rookie in the pros. I will never give up until I achieve my dream,” Eo said.