By Rev. Victor Fuhrman
When I was a kid, I always looked up to sports heroes, especially baseball stars, as a source of inspiration. In the days before the “baseball business” became the “business of baseball”, many of us daydreamed of being major leaguers. In recent years with the sport tainted by performance enhancing substance scandals and the overall emphasis on mega-dollar salaries, there has been little to inspire young baseball purists.
That changed yesterday with the story of Eri Yoshida and her hero and inspiration, Red Sox knuckle ball pitcher, Tim Wakefield. Yoshida, a petite 18 year old from Japan and the first woman signed by a professional Japanese team, says she taught herself to throw the knuckle ball as a youngster by watching videos of Wakefield. She had the opportunity to meet her long distance mentor yesterday in Fort Meyers, Florida, while on a trip promoting the independent Arizona Winter League. Wakefield, 43, began his major league career the year Yoshida was born. He gave her some in person advice as she threw a few side-arm knucklers for him yesterday. ” It’s pretty cool that I’m able to give back to somebody that wants to carry on the tradition of throwing a knuckleball,” said Wakefield.
Yoshida told him that her dream was to become a pitcher “just like him.”
So to the list of names of great knuckleballers of the past like Niekro, Wilhelm and Haines, will soon be added Wakefield and perhaps in a couple of decades, Yoshida.