TOKYO (AFP) A 16-year-old schoolgirl with a mean knuckleball has been selected as the first woman ever to play alongside the men in Japanese professional baseball.

Eri Yoshida was drafted for a new independent league that will launch in April, drawing attention for a side-armed knuckler that her future manager Yoshihiro Nakata said was a marvel.

"I never dreamed of getting drafted," Yoshida told reporters Monday, a day after she was selected to play for the Kobe 9 Cruise.

"I have only just been picked by the team and have not achieved anything," she said. "I want to play as a pro eventually in a higher league."

Yoshida, 155 centimetres (five feet) tall and weighing 52 kilograms (114 pounds), says she wants to follow in the footsteps of the great Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

A female professional baseball federation existed for a few years in the 1950s, but Yoshida will become Japan's first-ever woman to play alongside professional male players.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081117...l_081117063048