New Zealand Diamondblacks and Chicago White Sox pitcher John Holdzkom is heading to New Zealand this week for his first visit since 2012 when he was here training with the national team prior to the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers (WBCQ) in Taipei.
American born with a Kiwi father, Holdzkom pitched well for New Zealand at the Qualifier in Taipei in November 2012, which was the first step on a long road for him to the big time when he found himself the talk of Major League Baseball for a brief period of time, rising up from relative obscurity to pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 MLB play-offs.
"It's great that John is able to come and spend some time in his father's home country, while also spending some time with our young pitchers and coaches across the nation," said Baseball New Zealand CEO Ryan Flynn, who said that Holdzkom's story is inspiring to many who have faced adversity, inside and of out of baseball. "As one of our only New Zealand representatives (Nick Maronde is the other) to have played in the Major Leagues, it will give our young players a boost in their efforts to improve their own game and set goals to play at the very highest level."
"Although John has had some tough luck with injuries over the last couple of years, he knows how to battle and we still see him making another run at the top, while also helping our program and the Diamondblacks," said Flynn, who added, "To be able to pitch at the intensity and level he has already showed (with Pittsburgh), he has the ability to throw near 100mph (160kph) again."
Holdzkom was a fourth round pick of the New York Mets in the 2006 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, playing four seasons (2006-2008 and 2010) in the Mets system, splitting time between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Mets and Kingsport Mets, as well as the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats.
After not appearing in 2011, Holdzkom spent 2012 with the Cinicinnati Reds' Class A Advanced affiliate, the Bakersfield Blaze of the California League, finishing the year pitching for the Diamondblacks in Taiwan. In 2013, he began his independent career, playing with the Amarillo Sox and the Sioux City Explorers.
Following his strong showing at the 2012 WBCQ Holdzkom played independent baseball in the U.S. and in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) before being picked up by the Pirates where he rocketed up through all levels of minor league baseball in just two months before his call up to the Pirates Major League team in September 2014, pitching in nine games before his Wild Card appearance. Various arm issues have kept him sidelined since this career highlight.
Holdkzom was prepared to play for the Diamondblacks again this past February in Sydney in the most recent incarnation of the sport of baseball's world championship, the WBCQ, but was prevented from playing by the Pirates due to his arm injuries. His brother, Lincoln, also a member of the Diamondblacks and a former professional pitcher, was tragically killed in a car crash last December in California.