Independent Baseball Insider by Bob Wirz, Vol. 12, No. 26, September 4, 2014
By Bob Wirz
Nearly 200 players have made their way to the major leagues after playing Independent Baseball although very few debuts have carried the significance of John Holdzkom’s first appearance, which came this week with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The fact the giant Californian struck out all three St. Louis Cardinals hitters he faced in the eighth inning only added icing to an already tasty cake. The real message was that a player only 10 weeks removed from an Indy league, in this case the American Association, could step onto a major league diamond and help a team in its feverish chase to reach the major league postseason.
It was the second time this season a player made a quick trip from his Independent league to the major league-sponsored minor leagues then kept going to a big-league team. Another right-hander, Julio DePaula, made the jump from York, PA of the Atlantic League to the Baltimore Orioles although he did not get into a game before being sent back to the minors. Holdzkom’s last Independent appearance was for Amarillo, TX on June 19, little more than 10 weeks ago.
Holdzkom’s promotion to the major leagues along with those of pitcher Chaz Roe (Laredo, TX, American Association) and outfielder Antoan Richardson (Schaumburg, IL, now in the Frontier League), both to the New York Yankees give the Independent game a record-tying 40 major leaguers in a single season, according to records maintained exclusively by this Independent Baseball Insider. The record, currently shared with 2003 and 2011, seems almost certain to be broken sometime this month.
Reliever Luis Garcia (Can-Am League) made it back to the majors in the last few days although he also was with Philadelphia earlier this season.
Counting Holdzkom and Roe, 10 of 26 current major leaguers with Independent experience, three of whom are on disabled lists, played in the American Association.
Humor Creeps in During Holdzkom’s Debut
While Pittsburgh dropped a 6-4 decision to St. Louis on the night John Holdzkom debuted, there were hints of levity despite the pressure of the pennant race.
Holdzkom, who spent all of last season with Sioux City, IA and Amarillo in the American Association, actually saw the first batter he faced, Peter Bourjos, strike out but reach first base when his normally effective palmball got past catcher Russell Martin. The 26-year-old pitcher told MLB.com later he thought “oh, I have a chance now for four (strikeouts in the inning).”
Martin’s post-game comments to MLB.com included: “I don’t know what it was…palmball, splitter, whatever. All I know, it was nasty.”
And Mal Fichman, who scouted Holdzkom for the Pirates, admitted while thinking about how his find reached the majors so quickly “I missed my exit” while heading to the St. Louis airport.
(Fans not yet getting the complete Independent Baseball Insider column, which will be published 36 times in 2014, may do so for as little as $6.95 at www.WirzandAssociates.com. Bob Wirz provides supplemental stories about Independent Baseball on his blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com. The author has 16 years of major league baseball experience with Kansas City and as chief spokesman for two Commissioners, and lives in Stratford, CT.)