PITTSBURGH — Gift Ngoepe, a native of Randburg, Gauteng, South Africa, made history as the first African-born athlete to become a Major League Baseball player.
The 27-year-old went 1-for-2 in his debut, after the Pittsburgh Pirates called him from the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians, where he was batting .241 with a home run and four RBI in 15 games.
The Pirates already made international headlines earlier this week when pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas became the first Lithuanian born and trained baseball player to reach the major leagues. Players from over 40 countries are currently competing in professional baseball leagues around the world.
Ngoepe, an infielder, became the sixth South African to sign a professional contract when he agreed to terms with the Pirates in 2008. He has spent the past eight seasons working his way up the minor league ladder and was added to the clubs’ 40-man roster after the 2015 season.
Internationally, Ngoepe represented the South Africa National Team at the World Baseball Classic 2009 and last year at the World Baseball Classic 2017 qualifier in Sydney, Australia.
Ngoepe has a younger brother, Victor, who played for South Africa at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup® 2015 in Osaka, Japan, and is currently a prospect in the Pirates organization.
South Africa is currently ranked 29th in the WBSC Baseball World Rankings.