New Zealand Diamondblacks pitcher John Holdzkom is just one step away from breaking into Major League Baseball after being promoted to the Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians.
Holdzkom has shone through in relief, throwing six shutout innings over the last week for the Double-A Altoona Curve.
Holdzkom has transformed himself from a starting pitcher to a flame-throwing reliever, reaching speeds of close to 100mph (160km/hr) and in his six innings pitched so far for the Curve in Double-A has given up only one hit and two walks while striking out 10 batters in the process.
The promotion to Triple-A means a further strong showing from the 2.01 metre tall Holdzkom, could result in a place on the Pittsburgh Pirates 25 man roster in Major League Baseball.
American born with a Kiwi father (originally from Auckland), Holdzkom pitched for New Zealand at the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Taiwan in November 2012 and was signed by the Pirates on the back of some sparkling form in the American Association of Independent Baseball recently has maintained a mere 1.17 ERA in nine appearances (runs allowed per inning) out of the bullpen for Amarillo in 2014.
In seven and 2/3 innings pitched in independent ball, the 2.01 metre tall hurler struck out seven opposing hitters, walked just two and has allowed only one run and six hits.
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. He posted a combined 2.89 ERA in 2013 with 36 strikeouts in 43 and 2/3 innings.
With more Kiwis being noticed by Asian and North American professional and collegiate teams, Baseball New Zealand CEO Ryan Flynn said his organisation must work diligently to provide young players with the necessary training and competition that can lead to these opportunities being afforded to our young men.
Holdzkom joins Baltimore Orioles rookie Pita Rona as the Kiwi flagbearers in the professional game signed to major league organisations, whilst a host of young Kiwis are forging careers in independent and college baseball in the States and in Asia.
Flynn adds that this also means it is imperative that the sport's governing body must aim to get a franchise into the ABL as soon as possible to open the door further to young Kiwi sportsmen-a move that baseball officials believe now hinges on constructing an acceptable facility or stadium for the franchise to operate in during the next two baseball seasons.
Holdzkom is expected to lead the Diamondblacks on the mound in the next edition of the World Baseball Classic in early 2016, along with young collegiate hurlers Makauley Fox and Joe Boyce and perhaps John's older brother, former professional pitcher Lincoln Holdzkom, who also reached Triple A baseball with the Pawtucket Red Sox, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox in 2007 & 2008.