July 15, 2009 / 9:48 AM / 10 years ago

You're in! Women's baseball team still pitching at 70

OSAKA, Japan (Reuters Life!) - It may be late in the game, but Japan’s septuagenarian Osaka Silver Sisters aren’t hanging up their baseball gloves and bats any time soon.

In matching red and white uniforms, 75-year-old captain Mineko “Mimi” Khosaka and her fellow teammates pitch, hit and run with vigor, belying a range of health problems that range from bad backs, wonky knees, a missing kidney and a pacemaker.

“It feels great when I get a hit, but even better if I can run fast! It’s difficult, but I try to make it to first base on time,” Khosaka, who turns 76 in August, told Reuters.

The team consists of 11 players who were stars of Japan’s professional women’s baseball league about half a century ago and who decided to give the game another go four years ago despite their advancing age.

Baseball is very popular in Japan and the players meet every Friday for an hour of practice followed by a game with a much younger, all-boys team — which they often win.

The women’s technique is just as good as younger pros — Khosaka catches behind her back, just like Major League Baseball star Ichiro Suzuki — but head-first slides and base steals are, understandably, out of the question.

“I’m really surprised by the level of their baseball,” said Hajime Morioka, captain of the Nakayoshi Genki Club which plays against the Osaka Silver Sisters.

“The ladies often ask me to pitch faster. Some of them are strong hitters as well, so I’m just stunned.”

Khosaka started playing professional baseball at 15, and stayed with the game until she got married aged 21.

She currently runs a small coffee shop in central Osaka with her husband, often sharing her memories and photographs of the 1950s women’s league with customers and friends. She still plays with the same baseball glove she wore as a teenager.

“Nothing can separate myself from baseball. I know I’ll keep playing till I die and I’ve already asked my children to send me off in my baseball uniform when the time comes,” she said.

“You just can’t take baseball away from me.”

The Osaka Silver Sisters say they plan to play baseball until they turn 80. Until then, Teruko Yoshida, 75, says winning will remain her top priority.

“I’m very competitive so I give my best to hit every ball. I’m also very focused so I tend to forget all the body pain until I get home when I finally realize all the back and knee pain,” she said.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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