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Lofty talent to boost Kiwis

Date

David Polkinghorne

New Zealand's John Holdzkomwill against both for and against the Canberra Cavalry this year.

New Zealand's John Holdzkomwill against both for and against the Canberra Cavalry this year. Photo: Rohan Thomson

When it comes to the New Zealand national team, pitcher John Holdzkom stands head and shoulders above the rest.

At a whopping six foot, nine inches [2.06 metres], there aren't many who come close to him.

Even his older brother, Lincoln, looks like a midget in comparison - he's just 1.96 metres tall.

Both are part of the Kiwi side which is in Canberra playing the Cavalry in a series of friendlies in the lead-up to the New Zealand Diamondblacks' World Baseball Classic qualifiers in Taiwan.

Once the WBC games are done, Holdzkom will return to the ACT to join the Cavs for the rest of the Australian Baseball League season.

It's an unusual situation for him - playing against his future teammates. But his sole focus was the upcoming games for the Diamondblacks - the first time they've been invited to the WBC.

''I know [baseball] is an upstart sport there [in New Zealand]. I thought I'd have a good chance of being on the team with my background,'' Holdzkom said.

''I'm just honoured to represent the first [Kiwi] national team ever … some of these guys have been playing baseball since they were five, six years old, but they didn't think there was any future to it beyond Sunday club social leagues, so this gives something for people to aspire to.''

Obviously, Holdzkom's height is the first thing you notice about him.

The second is his unusual Kiwi accent. That's because the 25-year-old was born and raised in the south-west corner of the US. It also explains why Holdzkom and his brother play baseball, which comes a distant third to cricket and softball in sports played across the ditch.

Their Kiwi heritage comes from their father's side.

''I'm going to work on [my Kiwi accent] though, I might adopt one from being around all these guys all day long,'' Holdzkom said.

As the oldest, Lincoln started down the path of professional baseballer and made it to AAA-class with the Boston Red Sox.

Holdzkom hasn't made it to the same level as his older brother and was recently released by the Cincinnati Reds after playing high-A class for the organisation this year. He hopes his time in Canberra will help him get signed by another Major League club for 2013.

There's a familiar name on the Cavalry roster to help Holdzkom settle in. He played rookie ball with Canberra product Hayden Beard for the New York Mets in 2006.

Initially, Holdzkom wasn't the only Kiwi who was meant to join the Cavalry roster after the WBC qualifiers. Toronto Blue Jays first base Daniel Devonshire was originally announced as a Canberra signing but that deal has since fallen through.

SATURDAY

Canberra Cavalry v New Zealand Diamondblacks, at Narrabundah Ballpark, at 7pm.

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