This past Monday was monumental for Brevard County Manatees right-handed pitcher Jon Huizinga. He shutout the Tampa Yankees over two relief innings to close out an 8-0 Brevard County win. Six outs in a blowout win might sound mundane, but for the 34-year old Huizinga, they were the first outs he had recorded in an affiliated baseball game since 2003.
Back in 2002, Huizinga finished a four-year career at Michigan State and wanted to continue his career at the professional level. The right-hander went undrafted, but took a shot in the independent Frontier League with the Kalamazoo Kings.
The shot paid off. After just four appearances with Kalamazoo in 2003, Huizinga was signed to a minor league contract by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Milwaukee sent the right-hander to the Class-A Beloit Snappers and he fared well. In his first affiliated appearance, Huizinga went 4-0 with a 4.32 ERA.
Huizinga’s numbers, however, were not enough to keep him in affiliated baseball. Instead, he went back to Kalamazoo in 2004 and pitched 21 innings before suffering a devastating arm injury.
Doctors told Huizinga he was finished. The 24-year old righty, however, did not think so. He went from doctor-to-doctor, until somebody told him he could make a comeback.
Determined to stay in baseball, Huizinga reinvented himself with a nutrition plan that has helped sustain the right-hander and yielded him eight more seasons of independent professional baseball after doctors told him he was finished.
Finally, after all of that work, Huizinga got another shot at the affiliated ranks.
Huizinga earned a tryout with the Brewers under the supervision of Mark Dewey, an assistant pitching coordinator for Milwaukee. That turned into a conversation with Brewers Director of Player Development Reid Nichols and another workout for the Brewers at the team’s Arizona League complex. Eventually, all of that led to this…
It took a couple of days after being signed and sent to Brevard County for Huizinga to appear in a game. But, when he did, the veteran shut the door. He allowed a single in both the eighth and ninth innings, but erased both runners with double play balls and recorded the final out of the Manatees’ victory with a ground ball to shortstop.
Huizinga’s Debut Box Score: http://atmilb.com/1BHd8gb
Huizinga Reflects After Manatees Debut