South Africa’s Gift Ngoepe has made history as Africa’s first Major League Baseball (MLB) player.
The Randburg native made his debut as the first Africa-born player to feature in MLB with the Pittsburgh Pirates on 26th April 2017 against the Chicago Cubs.
Gift Ngoepe in October 2008, emerged the first black South African, and the sixth South African to sign a professional baseball contract. That was after MLB’s academy in Tirrenia, Italy invited him and the Pirates signed him.
He has been playing in the lower leagues since Pirates signed him in 2008. Records have it that Ngoepe was invited to 2015 spring training by the Pirates.
Afterwards, he played for the Indianapolis Indians in an international league. That was in 2016. From Indianapolis, the Pirates recalled Ngoepe and promoted him to the major leagues.
Speaking about his feat as the first African-born player in Major League history, Ngoepe told New York Times that it was a dream come true for him.
“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.
It’s a dream come true for me because it’s been my dream since I was a 10-year-old boy.
But, it also means so much to the people of South Africa and baseball in Africa… I’ve gotten plenty (congratulations) from people back home who are so excited.”
Making his major league debut, Ngoepe singled off Cub’s starting pitcher. Commenting on the game, the Pirates manager, Clint Hurdle said: “It’s a great win for the organization and a great accomplishment by Gift.”
“I first saw him six and a half years ago in instructional league, and he’s completely changed.
I’m sure a lot of people have told him over the years that he would never make the major leagues: professional scouts, people in uniform, people out of uniform. But he didn’t listen, and persevered until he got here.”
Meanwhile, Gift Ngoepe acknowledged that baseball in Africa is still developing. He’s hoping that his feat would inspire more interest in the game across the continent.