Baseball history was made on Wednesday night as South African native Gift Ngoepe became the first African-born baseball player to play in the sport’s top league, Major League Baseball (MLB).
The Pittsburgh Pirates infielder hit a single in his first Major League at-bat, facing one of the league’s premier pitchers, Jon Lester of the defending champion Chicago Cubs.
Mr. Ngoepe, a 27-year-old native of Pietersburg, South Africa, was promoted from the Pirates’ highest minor league affiliate, Indianapolis, on Wednesday and came into the game as a substitute in the fourth inning.
Later in the game, he helped turn the game-ending double-play in the Pirates’ 6-5 win over the Cubs.
“To accomplish this not only for me but for my country and my continent is something so special,” Mr. Ngoepe told reporters. “There are 1.62 billion people on our continent. To be the first person out of 1.62 billion to do this is amazing.”
Commenting on the historic event, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, “It’s a great win for the organization and a great accomplishment for Gift.
“I’m sure a lot of people 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 he persevered until he got here.”
Mr. Ngoepe said that while baseball in Africa is “still very much in the development stages,” he hopes that his ascension to the Major Leagues will spark interest in the sport on the continent.
Indeed, the next African to play in the Major Leagues could be Nigerian-born Demi Orimoloye, 20, an outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league affiliate in Wisconsin.