First Black African plays in an MLB game

Date: 
Wed, 2017-04-26

*On this date in 2017, Gift Ngoepe of the Pittsburgh Pirates, promoted to the major leagues from Indianapolis became the first Black African born player to play in a Major League game.

That day in his major league at bat, he had his first major league hit, a single off Chicago Cubs' starting pitcher Jon Lester. Gift Ngoepe was born on born January 18, 1990. Mpho' Gift Ngoepe was born in Randburg, South Africa; growing up, Ngoepe's mother was a clubhouse attendant for the Randburg Mets, and they lived in one of the clubhouse rooms. He was invited to Major League Baseball's academy in Tirrenia, Italy, where the Pirates signed him. When he signed in October 2008 he became the first Black South African, and the sixth South African to sign a professional baseball contract.

In 2009, Ngoepe played for the Gulf Coast League Pirates.  He was also a member of the South Africa national baseball team at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. At the 2009 WBC, he hit consecutive triples off of Mexico's Elmer Dessens. In 2009, Sports Illustrated published an article on Ngoepe titled "A Gift From Africa." In 2010, he played 64 games with the Short Season-A State College Spikes and 2 with the Advanced-A Bradenton Marauders. Ngoepe played only 27 games in 2011 due to an injury. He played the entire 2012 season with Bradenton, and in a then career-high 124 games played. 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, Ngeope hit .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, Ngeope set career-highs in games played and RBI, playing 131 games with Altoona and batting .238 with 9 home runs and 52 RBI. In 2015, he was invited to spring training by the Pirates and started the season for the Indianapolis Indians of the Class AAA International League in 2016. Ngope's younger brother, Victor, also plays in the Pirates organization.

Reference:
CBS News

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