New Zealand baseball pitcher Lincoln Holdzkom has been killed in a car accident in the US.
Holdzkom is the elder brother of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher John Holdzkom and details of the accident are unknown at this stage.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Holdzkom family at this tragic time," said Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn, who is in the US for World Baseball Classic meetings.
"To have this happen anytime to such a vibrant and fantastic young man is just terrible, but a week before Christmas makes it so much harder for John and the Holdzkom family."
Lincoln Holdzkom was an integral part of the 2012 Diamondblacks who came within a game of qualifying for the main draw of the World Baseball Classic and was in line to be a big part in February's challenge in Australia.
Holdzkom's baseball career started with a scholarship to Arizona Western Junior College. From there he was drafted in the seventh round by the Florida Marlins, making their 40-man roster in 2004.
After five years he was traded to the Chicago Cubs and spent a year there before signing a free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2007, where he made the Sox's 40-man roster in 2008.
His most recent minor league contract ended in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Although he spoke with a Californian drawl, Holdzkom's father is a Kiwi who enjoys returning to see his New Zealand family from Mt Eden as often as possible.
Lincoln was so determined to be part of the 2012 Diamondblacks' World Baseball Classic team he gave up his job to travel, train and play with the Diamondblacks in New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan.
He quickly became the leading pitcher on their roster, and was likely to be the captain of the pitching staff in February's WBC qualifier in Sydney. Diamondblacks manager Chris Woodward called Holdzkom the "heart and soul" of the team's pitching staff.
"This is a huge loss for the Holdzkom family, for so many who have known and loved Lincoln, and of course for our baseball community in New Zealand," Flynn said.
"Lincoln cared as much as anyone in the programme about the health of the sport in our country, its growth and success, and he took a great deal of pride in wearing the black and white of New Zealand and being a Diamondblack. He was a role model for our younger players, especially on the pitching staff. Lincoln Holdzkom will always be an important member of Baseball New Zealand's past, present and future."
Flynn said the national team and organisation's leadership plan on honouring Lincoln in numerous ways in the WBC qualifiers and beyond.