John Holdzkom was on the Pirates’ postseason roster last year, and this year will begin the season in the bullpen at Triple-A Indianapolis, part of the team’s pitching plans.
But back in October 2012, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the former Met draft pick was out of money and out of baseball options when he placed a random call to a little-known podcast and got the advice that helped rescue his career.
It sounds like an April Fool’s gag, but it’s not.
Back then, Chelsea Peretti wasn’t starring in FOX’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine. She was a stand-up comic taping interviews for the second episode of a call-in podcast. One of those callers identified himself only as “John, about 24,” and morosely acknowledged having blown a small fortune.
Peretti: How much is a small fortune? Ten grand?
Holdzkom: No. When I was 18 the New York Mets gave me $210,000.
Peretti: Wooooah. Why?
Holdzkom: Because they thought I was a good baseball player.
The Amazin’s had picked the 6-foot-9 Holdzkom in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, mainly on the strength of a blazing fastball that let him strike out over a batter an inning for his first three seasons in the minors.
Peretti: And then what happened? You started sucking at baseball?
Holdzkom: Um, I did. I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t as good as I thought I was, and my arm wasn’t as healthy as I thought it was.
He spent that signing bonus on a Ford F-150 and rounds of sushi, but ended up needing Tommy John surgery in 2008. After posting a 9.00 ERA in rookie ball – he allowed 10 walks in just five innings – Holdzkom got released in 2010. He didn’t pitch in 2011, had a tryout with the Reds the next year, then washed out again. Soon after, he picked up the phone.
Peretti was impressed by Holdzkom’s honesty. He owned his mistakes, from the drinking to the cockiness. That turned to humility when he talked on the podcast about how excited he was to get a shot at winter ball in the remote baseball outpost of Australia.
Peretti: I feel you have a lot of potential. I’m glad you’ve gotten your life back on track. I think you’re going to go to the majors after Australia.
Funny thing is, the funny woman was right. And Holdzkom can trace his return climb to the bigs right back to that podcast.