PITCH PERFECT

Greg Holland becomes the first ex-Catamount to play in baseball’s All-Star Game

Former Western Carolina relief pitcher – and current Kansas City Royals closer – Greg Holland became the first Catamount baseball player ever selected for Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game when he was tapped to replace Seattle Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma on the American League roster for July’s “Midsummer Classic.”

Greg Holland

Greg Holland pitches his way into Major League’s All-Star Game. Photo by Chris Vleisides

A right-hander, Holland entered in the seventh inning of the game, which was played July 16 at Citi Field in New York. He retired the first hitter he faced, forcing Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt to hit a groundball to the third baseman, who threw Goldschmidt out at first. Holland then gave up a single to David Wright of the New York Mets before leaving the game.

Holland was one of three Kansas City players on the American League squad, joining teammates Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez, who all played roles in the 3-0 victory over the National League. “It was a dream come true,” Holland told MLB.com after the game. “We had 30 percent of the winning All-Star team out there in Royals colors, so that was pretty cool.”

The MLB All-Star selection is the second such honor of Holland’s professional career. He earned Texas League All-Star honors in 2009 while playing in the Royals’ farm system with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Holland dominated opposing hitters in the first half of the 2013 MLB season, posting a 1.80 ERA with 22 saves over 35 innings. Going into the All-Star break, the closer had struck out 44 percent of the batters he had faced this season to lead MLB and had struck out the side six times.

Originally from Marion, Holland recorded 19 saves for Western Carolina from 2005-07, currently fifth best in program history. He posted 10 career victories in his 82 career appearances. He recorded 154 career strikeouts against 70 walks.

Holland was drafted by Kansas City in the 10th round of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft on the heels of WCU’s runner-up finish in the NCAA Baseball Chapel Hill regional. He went on to make his Major League debut on August 2, 2010, against the Oakland Athletics.