This 13-year-old girl competed alongside top 2024 Draft prospects last week

February 13th, 2024

The third annual DRD International Baseball Academies Tournament that took place last week in Puerto Rico featured some of the more talented amateur players in the world, including several prospects for the 2024 and 2025 Drafts.

As well as at least one trailblazer.

While the most highly touted players in the tournament were 17-year-olds, like No. 23 Draft prospect Noah Franco of IMG Academy, Japan’s Youki Robyn Aoshima is only 13. And she’s the one who made history at DIBAT.

Aoshima became the first youth girl to play in the event during Japan’s 7-0 win over Australia on Feb. 12, opening the door for future participants in the international tourney. She walked and stole a base as part of a double-steal in an impressive all-around debut during which she also logged defensive innings at catcher and first base.

At 13 -- her birthday is July 7, 2010 -- Aoshima isn’t only the first female to participate in DIBAT. She’s also the youngest player in this year’s tourney by a wide margin. Her older brother, Kazuki Ryan, is also part of the team.

“It was a great experience from a learning point of view and a playing point of view,” Aoshima told in a phone interview. “I’ve been playing with older guys, but [this tournament provided the opportunity to play with] even older, and I've learned a lot. I hope I can keep going and have plenty more opportunities like this.”

A native of San Diego, Aoshima has played baseball against older competition since she was 8 years old. She is a mainstay on the SoCal Tides and California Waves, both teams facilitated with help of Justine Siegel’s pioneering Baseball for All network. Aoshima also plans to participate in MLB’s Trailblazers Series in April and future MLB-sponsored girls' baseball events now that she is age-eligible.

“MLB is really supporting the movement for the girls to play,” said Kenji Aoshima, Japan’s head coach and Youki’s father.

Youki Robyn Aoshima, whose favorite MLB teams are the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays, called Vladimir Guerrero Jr. her favorite player. She said she is inspired by the USA Women’s National Team and admires players like Kelsie Whitmore, who in 2022 became the first woman to play in a league affiliated with Major League Baseball.

“I hope to be a part of that team too,” she said.

At DIBAT, amateur academies from around the world were split into two groups of five, with five days of round-robin play before the top two teams from each group advanced to a single-elimination tournament to determine the champion. Japan went 4-3-1 in its first eight games, then beat Aruba in its final game to claim fifth place in the tourney.

But long before tournament play ended, Youki Robyn Aoshima had already made her mark.

“At the beginning of the selection, with Youki being only 13 and a girl, there were serious doubts about whether she could hang with the [older] boys,” Kenji Aoshima said. “Watching her through the years, the way she competes and the way she works every day, at her game, at the minimum, this was going to be an experience for her to see what it's going to take and what kind of level she needs to get to. From that standpoint, there was no way in my mind that I was thinking she was just going to be there to be there. She absolutely deserved to be there. And I think she showed that in this tournament.”