Life threw a curve to Mike Holtz, and the Central Cambria High School graduate used his curveball to make an impact on baseball diamonds from Ebensburg and Johnstown, to Anaheim, Oakland, Boston and even to Japan.
“From the time I started in Boise, Idaho, until my last year with the Red Sox, I could not have had any better of a life-learning experience,” said Holtz upon his 2010 induction into the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame. “I got a chance to see a lot of places in this country and in Japan that I would have never seen. I got a chance to see the whole country. It was an invaluable life experience for me.”
At 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Holtz wasn't an imposing presence on the mound. But hitters soon learned not to overlook the left-handed relief specialist.
Throughout his career as a pitcher with NCAA Division I power Clemson University and in the major leagues, Holtz overcame obstacles and adversity.
An arm injury in college threatened Holtz's career. He had Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow and bounced back to throw in the College World Series.
Holtz made 353 appearances in eight major league seasons with the Anaheim Angels (1996-2001), Oakland Athletics (2002), San Diego Padres (2002) and Boston Red Sox (2006). He had a 16-19 career record with three saves.
From 1996 through 2001, Holtz thrived as the left-handed setup man in the Angels bullpen, most of that time working with closer Troy Percival. A workhorse, Holtz made 66 appearances in 1997, another 63 appearances in 2001 and 61 in 2000.
Holtz also spent a season with Nashville at the Class AAA level in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 2003, and played for the Yokohama BayStars in the Japanese Central League in 2005.
Including his time in the minors, Holtz pitched 13 seasons professionally.
At Clemson, Holtz was part of an Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse team. He pitched in the College World Series with the Tigers. The Angels selected him in the 17th round of the 1994 amateur draft. Even though he wasn’t taken in an early round, Holtz was pitching in the majors not even two full seasons later.
He also starred locally in the AAABA Tournament and was inducted into the AAABA Hall of Fame in 2007. The left-hander pitched for Pepsi-Cola and the Knickerbockers in the tournament. Holtz had a AAABA Tournament-best 15 strikeouts in 1990.
“I maximized what I could do with my career,” Holtz said. “There’s not one thing I regret as far as baseball goes.”