A Canadian knuckleballer will be the first woman to play in the collegiate West Coast League
Claire Eccles, at just 19 years old, has already pitched in two Women's Baseball World Cups and the 2015 Pan-Am Games. Now, the Canadian knuckleballer will become the first woman to play in the West Coast League, a collegiate summer baseball league.
She's scheduled to join the Victoria HarbourCats on June 6:
Eccles plays softball at the University of British Columbia, where she's an outfielder, not a pitcher. That makes sense -- one of her favorite players has been known to play both positions as well:
According to The Globe and Mail, Eccles' fastball reaches about 76 mph. But it's her knuckleball that manager Brad Norris-Jones is counting on. Eccles will mostly be used out of the bullpen, and hitters should beware:
"It's dancing!" [her] catcher blurts out after snagging the ball that dipped sharply, before returning it to Eccles.
Eccles spoke to MLB.com about her career and if she thinks women will some day play in Major League Baseball.
What's it like trying to master the knuckleball?
I wouldn't say I've mastered it. I think the knuckleball isn't something that can be mastered 100 percent and the pitch is so unpredictable. That's what's so great about it. I would throw it at practice for fun because it's something everyone wanted to try and mine just seemed to work. I played around with different ways to hold it. Eventually it was good enough to use in a game. There's on and off days but regardless, it's a lot of fun to throw.
What was it like pitching on the international level with the Women's Baseball World Cup team and at the Pan-Am Games?
It's definitely something I had never experienced before and it's a lot of fun. I think it will help a ton with playing for the HarbourCats because big crowds are nothing I haven't dealt with before. There's obviously pressure because the tournament is so short and there's no margin to mess up -- but it's a heck of a time.
Who are some of your favorite baseball players?
Ichiro has always been my favorite player because I'm half-Japanese and grew up watching the Mariners. They were the closest team to where I live. I also admire all the skill he has since he isn't the biggest or strongest player in the league. Derek Jeter for sure because he is just iconic. Also, Randy Johnson because he was a lefty and so am I.
Do you think a woman will ever play in MLB?
I definitely think a woman can play in MLB. Of course, that was always my dream growing up, but regardless whether it's me or not I have no doubt there will be a woman playing in the future.
There's a history of WCL players reaching the big leagues -- James Paxton, Chris Davis, Jason Hammel and Jacoby Ellsbury are just a few of the Major Leaguers who have gone on to the Show.