Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Will the Victoria Seals Roster Include a Woman in 2010?

On Tuesday, the Arizona Winter League announced that 17-year-old Eri Yoshida would be playing in their league in January/February 2010.  Yoshida was the first female to play professional baseball in Japan last season and she held her own in the independant Kansai League.  She is only 5' 1" and 114 pounds, but she features a 51 MPH sidearm-knuckleball that is tough to hit.  In 11 appearances with the Kobe 9 Cruise, Yoshida sported a respectable 4.63 ERA and only gave up 11 hits in 11 2/3 innings.  Like all knuckleballers, control is a bit of a problem and she walked 9 batters in her 11 2/3 innings of work.

The Arizona Winter League (AWL) is associated with the Golden Baseball League and the two leagues have the same Commissioner (Kevin Outcalt).  It's not a stretch to state the the AWL exists mainly as a testing-ground for players who may end up getting signed to play for teams in the GBL and other independent leagues.  Unlike the independent leagues, players aren't paid to play -- they pay the league $3,500 USD for the opportunity to be showcased to scouts and managers.  At least two of the AWL managers also manage in the GBL (Boots Day and Tim Johnson).

Here's where the Victoria Seals come in.  It makes perfect sense for the Seals to sign Yoshida if she does anything other than stink it up in the AWL.  Think of how much the Seattle Mariners have profited from putting players like Ichiro and Kenji Johjima out on the field.  If you were to put a 17-year-old Japanese female out on the mound for the Victoria Seals, a significant percentage of the Japanese students and Japanese-Canadians in Victoria would flock to Royal Athletic Park whenever she was due to pitch.  Plus, every girl who plays softball in Victoria (and there are many) would be lining up to buy a Seals ticket. 

If she were to spend the summer in the Garden City, there would be an entourage of media (Japanese, Canadian and American) that would follow her every move.  That would do nothing but greatly increase the national and international profile of the Victoria Seals.  I also have no doubt that Yoshida would sell a lot of Victoria Seals merchandise -- and not just to the locals.  Japanese baseball fans would most likely be ordering a bunch of caps and jerseys off the internet.

Wishful thinking on my part?  Perhaps.  But signing Eri Yoshida to a Victoria Seals contract makes a lot of sense.  I mean, she couldn't be any worse than Mike Reeves or Eziequiel Ruvalcaba.