Major League Baseball stands as one of the United States’ biggest sports organizations. Officially established in 1876, the organization has been tasked with overseeing baseball for over 140 years. And during that time, they’ve grown to become the second biggest major league sport organization in the USA, behind only the National Football League.
Baseball in the USA
Baseball is often referred to as America’s favorite pastime, and it certainly holds a special place in American culture and consciousness. Some of America’s favorite athletes are baseball players, with the most notable being Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Billie Bonds, and of course, the greatest of all, Baby Ruth.
Baseball is also an incredibly popular betting sport in the USA. While not quite as popular as football, it definitely does compare. What is impressive about baseball though, is that it has reached an international audience that football has yet to manage. The sport is incredibly popular in countries like Japan, South Korea, Canada, and New Zealand. In fact, if sports betting in New Zealand is anything to go by, the sport is quickly growing in popularity over there.
Baseball in New Zealand
While baseball is growing in popularity in New Zealand, it is nowhere near as major as sports like soccer, rugby, or cricket. However, it is worth noting that baseball has been played in the country since 1888, when the All-Stars led by Albert Spalding faced off against the Chicago Cubs. It was at that time that baseball spread in the country, as many pro cricket players played brief, friendly matches against the American baseball players.
Despite the fact that baseball is a minority sport in New Zealand, there are still quite a few notable Kiwis who have been signed by the MLB. In this article, we are going to look over some of the most notable New Zealand baseball players, who have signed for a team in Major League Baseball.
We would be remised if we did not look at Andy Skeels first on our list. While this placement is a bit of a cheat, as Skeels is an American, he was born in Paraparaumu, New Zealand. In 1987, he was drafted by the San Diego Padres, and after three years with them was traded to the New York Yankees.
While Andy Skeels did not have a particularly impressive player career, he truly shone upon his retirement, when he became a baseball manager. In the managerial position, Skeels’ career reached its peak. His teams recorded the highest winning percentage between 2008-2013, winning two league championships and setting some significant records.
In 2013, Andy Skeels went back to New Zealand so he could manage the national baseball team. With his help, the Kiwis reached the championship game, and went up against Taiwan in the World Baseball Classic. At the time, New Zealand was unranked, making this event the only time that an unranked team has reached the finals of a major baseball tournament.
Born in Canada to a New Zealand father, Campbell began showing an interest in baseball at the age of 9. According to him, his mother had seen an advertisement for a baseball team, and had signed him up, which in turn had sparked a passion for baseball within him.
Campbell played baseball all throughout high school and the community college which he attended, eventually ending up drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006. His skill and experience quickly earned him promotions, and he rose through the ranks.
In 2009, Campbell finally got a taste of the AAA, when he played for Las Vegas’ 51s, showing he had the potential to be a major player. However, most of his games he played in the AA, where he batted a total of .269.
And speaking of Scotts who participated in the MLB, we can’t help but not mention Scott Richmond, a Canadian player of New Zealand heritage. Like Campbell, Richmond also played for the Toronto Blue Jays. However, unlike the other Scott, Richmond spent most of his time playing in the Major League.
His career began in college, before moving on to Minor League Baseball. However, he quickly rose through the ranks, and was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007. By July of the next year, Richmond was already playing in the Major League. His debut match saw him face off against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Unfortunately, the game did not go his way. The player made several mistakes, and was promptly demoted to AAA. The demotion seemingly lit a fire under Scott Richmond, and he worked very hard for a promotion back, which he eventually earned.
Apart from the Blue Jays, Scott Richmond has played for the Texas Rangers, the Wichita Wingnuts, the Lotte Giants, and the Long Island Ducks.
Finally, we are taking a look at John Holdzkom. Born in the United States of America, Holdzkom had a New Zealand father, which qualified him for this list, and for participating on the New Zealand national baseball team. During the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifications, the same game in which the New Zealanders reached the finals under Andy Skeels, John Hodzkom represented the team.
However, Holdzkom’s career extends far beyond the New Zealand national baseball team. He has played with some of the most notable MLB teams ever. Including the New York Mets, who drafted him in 2005. That was the start of John Holdzkom’s professional career.
After six years with the Mets, Holdzkom was released from his contract, and he moved on to the Cincinnati Reds. From there, he has pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Chicago White Sox, before ending his career pitching for Auckland Tuatara.
As you can see, there are quite a few New Zealand players who have managed to reach the Big Leagues. And as the popularity of the sport grows around the world, the number of notable international players is bound to increase. We are looking forward to seeing what the future of baseball has in store.