Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz

John Holdzkom, who authored one of the American Association’s great stories in 2014 when he went from the league to the bullpen of the Pittsburgh Pirates in a matter of weeks, has been looking forward to a healthy start in the new season, but now must deal with tragedy in his family before spring training starts.

Brother and fellow professional Lincoln Holdzkom, another onetime American Association pitcher (Wichita ’13), has had his life end at the age of 33 in an automobile accident in California.

It was only earlier this month when John Holdzkom told a home country media outlet in New Zealand,, “me and my brother are extremely excited to get back and see all the boys again.” What he meant was to re-join the New Zealand Diamondblacks for their World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament in February.  Both brothers have been key members of the team in the past.  Lincoln, five years older, was the “heart and soul” of the New Zealand pitching staff, manager Chris Woodward told while other reports said he was likely going to be captain this season.

Lincoln Holdzkom, whose career had topped out at Class AAA in the Boston farm system in 2007-8, was a reliever in 40 games for the Wichita Wingnuts (2-4, one save, 3.72) in 2013.

John Holdzkom pitched at both Sioux City and Amarillo that same season, then he limited American Association opponents through a 1.17 earned run average in his first nine appearances at Amarillo the next season before the Pirates acquired his contract.  Weeks later he was in the National League where he collected 14 strikeouts in nine innings while winning one game, saving another and posting a 2.00 ERA for the parent Pirates.  He also pitched in the wild-card playoff game.

“I was in a bit of a hot streak in June (of last season) and this little scrapper laid down a bunt on me,” John Holdzkom told recently.  “I went to make the play, landed awkwardly on my shoulder, and that was pretty much all she wrote for the season.”  He worked only 24.1 minor league innings before the injury, but has been healthy this offseason, working out at Bradenton, FL where the Pirates train and looking forward to spring training with Pittsburgh.

That still should happen, though it obviously will be with a heavy heart.

Previously the chief spokesman for Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003.  He is a frequent contributor to this site as well as writing his own blog,


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