Kiwis Worldwide: July 2014 Update
Time (yes, well overdue) for another update on Kiwi baseballers around the world and some a little closer to home. In this month's offering, I'll be taking a look at a new signing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a Baltimore rookie's start to the year and how our college players ended up their seasons whilst also looking at a few players who are starting to make a name for themselves.
New Zealand Diamondblacks pitcher John Holdzkom has been picked up by Major League Baseball franchise Pittsburgh Pirates following a stellar run for the Amarillo Sox in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Holdzkom has been sold to the Pirates and assigned to the Altoona Curve in the Class AA Eastern League. The Curve are based in Altoona, Pennsylvania about 100 miles (160km) east of Pittsburgh and play at the Peoples Natural Gas Field.
American born with a Kiwi father, Holdzkom pitched for New Zealand at the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Taiwan in November 2012 and 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, 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 Cincinnati 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.
Meanwhile, Pita Rona's season is underway as well, lining up for the Baltimore Orioles Rookie Gulf Coast League team. It's early days in the season so far and Pita has had only 9 at bats in 3 games at this stage, with a hit against the Rays his only success. I'm sure the hits will rack up as the season progresses and we wish Pita all the success in the world.
Prior to the 2014 NCAA Baseball season getting underway, Mak Fox's Oregon State University and Max Brown's Kansas State University were both ranked in the top 25 college baseball programmes in the country, so expectations were high for both as they aimed to get to the College World Series in Omaha.
Unfortunately neither quite made it to Omaha where Vanderbilt beat Virginia in the CWS, with Fox's OSU being beaten in the 1st round of the play-offs by Cal State Irvine and Brown's KSU struggled during the season and missed out on the play offs, despite Max having a solid season with the bat. Brown averaged .330, the 3rd best ave on the roster, with a home run and 14 RBI in 43 games. Max is a junior this year at KSU after previously attending Bellevue College in Seattle, Washington.
Meanwhile, Aucklander Daniel Bradley's North Iowa Area Community College Trojans had a solid regular season with Daniel starring with the bat finishing with a .333 average, hitting 4 home runs and collecting 28 RBI in 55 games.
Australian based Kiwi catcher Connar O'Gorman has had a quiet rookie season so far in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball team, the Amarillo Sox, appearing as a back-up in only 12 of the Sox 41 games so far.
Further chances to grow their baseball skills for 3 young kiwi baseballers (Ben Thompson, Sam Harvey and Cooper Hutchinson) who are currently at the MLB Australian Academy Programme on the Gold Coast, while 5 young Aucklanders will get the trip of a lifetime to Ehime, Japan, for the World Children's Baseball Fair, an event founded in 1989 by baseball home run kings Sadaharu Oh and Hank Aaron, along with Dr Akiko Agishi. The mission of the organization is, "to share the dream of friendship and teamwork with the children of the world and to sow the seeds of that dream through an international baseball fair". I will endeavour to catch up with their progress and let you know how they got on in an upcoming blog.
Great news for three other kiwi youngsters who will be heading to North America soon to begin or continue their college adventures with Dewald De Klerk and Duncan Izaaks both on their way to Colby Community College in Kansas (former Blue Jay Daniel Devonshire's old school) and Auckland infielder Nick Koh heading for Indiana Wesleyan University on a partial scholarship. I caught up with Nick recently and had a chat about his upcoming adventure.
20 year old Nick Koh is heading to Marion, Indiana, about 85 miles north-east of Indianapolis to take up a partial scholarship to play Baseball for the Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) Wildcats and begins classes in September.
Nick graduated High School from Elim Christian College in Auckland and continued his education with a year and a half at City College of San Francisco playing junior college ball with fellow Kiwi Scott Drinkwater.
The 2nd or 3rd baseman said the Wildcats scouted him last year when they were in New Zealand for the IWU Sports Blitz in August last year and followed that up by seeing Nick play for the Junior Diamondblacks in Arizona at the Arizona Fall Classic in the latter part of 2013.
Nick is looking forward to heading to college in September and said "I just want to play baseball to the highest level that I can and obviously going pro is the dream and I am working towards wanting that dream to come true." He added that whilst following the pro dream is the ultimate goal he would also like to represent New Zealand at the highest level, adding, "It would be a great privilege."
I'd like to wish Nick and all the other young kiwis pursuing their dreams of playing baseball at the highest level all the very best and that includes our national 12U and 15U teams heading to Aberdeen in Maryland, USA, and Mexico, for their respective World tournaments.
12U Head Coach, Dan Tan and 15U Head Coach Jamie Wilson and their respective coaching teams have named strong squads to compete at their upcoming events and we'll keep a close eye on their progress.
Congratulations also go to former Diamondblack pitcher Andrew Marck who is doing his best to help young kiwis to work on their game by supporting the baseball community through The Fieldhouse batting cages he now runs, so please support him in his business ventures.
Well that's it for now, so keep pitching, hitting, fielding or just following the great game of baseball and I'll be back soon with another update.
Your's in Baseball,