Polokwane-born Gift Ngoepe represented all Africans when he went out to bat for Major League Baseball outfit the Pittsburgh Pirates last week.
When Ngoepe strode out to bat for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, it was an epoch-making moment – not just for his career, but for the 1,2 billion people he represented as the first African to feature in Major League Baseball.
The fairy tale was complete when he struck a single through the infield in the fourth inning, which saw the dugout and stands erupt.
While Ngoepe seemed to take the moment in his stride, his teammates Francisco Cervelli and Josh Harrison, and coach Kimera Bartee gave full vent to their elation.
Pittsburgh eventually prevailed 6-5. The 27-year-old second baseman, who was signed by the franchise as a non-draft free agent in September 2008, was called up from the Pirates’ minor league affiliate Indianapolis only earlier in the day. It was a just reward for Ngoepe, who was rated by Baseball America as the “best defensive infielder” in the Pirates’ minor league system in each of the past five seasons and led all International League shortstops in fielding percentage at Indianapolis last year. Ngoepe was introduced to baseball after his family moved to Johannesburg and began living in the clubhouse of the Randburg Mets, where his mother worked.
Ngoepe’s younger brother Victor is also in the Pirates set-up.
“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.
“We live for this kind of moment,” Ngoepe, who represented South Africa at the 2009 World Baseball Classic, said on the Pirates website.“I’ve got plenty from people back home who are so excited.
“Baseball is still very much in the development stages in Africa, and hopefully this will get more people interested.”
That trailblazing moment is sure to give the sport, which has long been overshadowed by cricket in Africa, a much-needed shot in the arm and leave the door open for African athletes seeking access to the vast economic and development opportunities offered by Major League Baseball -Destinyman.com