On the 26th April 2017 Mpho’ Gift Ngoepe found himself on the Pittsburgh Pirates game day roaster. Ngoepe a middle infielder from Randburg, South Africa first joined professional baseball in October 2008 when he signed a contract with the Pirates. He initially played for the Gulf Coast League Pirates in 2009 and is now in the major leagues, making him the first African-born player in Major League Baseball history. He is literally one in 1.6 Billion.
A group of young Randburg baseballers, who played for an amateur club called the Mets, helped Ngoepe get to where he is by not only teaching him the game but funding his travel for games. They played Home Run Derby to raise funds when Ngoepe, at 10, was chosen to play on a national team traveling to Brazil.
They passed around the hat so that he could play in Mexico for South Africa when he was 15 and in Cuba a year later, and so that he could take the most life-changing trips of all, to Italy in 2007 and 2008 to attend Major League Baseball’s annual three-week European Academy for promising international players.
Gift becomes the first player from the continent of Africa to reach the Major Leagues. pic.twitter.com/CWJLiwAtM7
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) April 27, 2017
- In 2009, Ngoepe played for the Gulf Coast League Pirates, and batted .238 with 1 home run and 9 runs batted in (RBI) in 47 games.
- He was a member of the South Africa national baseball team at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
- In 2010, he played 64 games with the Short Season-A State College Spikes and 2 with the Advanced-A Bradenton Marauders, batting a combined .206 with 1 home run and 20 RBI.
- Ngoepe played only 27 games in 2011 due to a hamate injury. He batted .297 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI before the injury.
- Ngoepe played the entire 2012 season with Bradenton, and in a then career-high 124 games played he hit .232 with 9 home runs and 36 RBI. He would also play 16 games for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League
- In 2013, he again began the season with Bradenton, playing 28 games and batting .292 before being promoted to the Double-A Altoona Curve, where he played 72 games. In Altoona, Ngoepe batted .177 with 3 home runs and 16 RBI. He made his second trip to the Arizona Fall League at the end of the season, playing 17 games for Scottsdale.
- In 2014, Ngoepe set career-highs in games played and RBI, playing 131 games with Altoona and batting .238 with 9 home runs and 52 RBI.
- He was invited to 2015 spring training by the Pirates on 9 January 2015.
- He played for the Indianapolis Indians of the Class AAA International League in 2016
His historic Debut
The Pirates this year are a team of many nations. To make room for Ngoepe on the 25-man roster, the Pirates sent Lithuanian Dovydas Neverauskas to Triple-A. On April 25, Neverauskas had become the second Lithuanian to ever play in a MLB game.
Before the game, Ngoepe stated to the press, “It shows that you don’t have to be from a big country like the United States to reach your dream of making it to the major leagues.” The Pirates managed to hold on for a 6-5 win and Ngoepe coming off a good game where he hit in his first at-bat, said “It was awesome.”
Africans and the rest of the world anticipate a singular career from Ngoepe who is the continents newest gold standard!
Re a o lebohela Mpho! Congratulations!
Watch: video courtesy of Pittsburgh Pirate.