SOUTH Africa’s Gift Ngoepe became the first African player to play in a major baseball league game in the U.S. on Wednesday night when his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball, (MLB) beat Chicago Cubs 6-5.
Ngoepe, (27) who was born in Randburg, had a hit and a walk in the Pirate’s victory after coming on as a substitute.
After the game Ngoepe was asked what he was thinking as he was standing on first base following his fourth-inning single off Jon Lester.
He replied: “I thought about where I’ve come from, making the journey from South Africa to pursue my dream of playing in the major leagues someday,” Ngoepe said.
“I thought about the struggles of being in the minor leagues for 8½ years and then to finally get up here and get a hit in my first at-bat. The whole thing was just awesome,” he added. “That’s the only word I can think of to describe it. It was awesome.”
When Ngoepe was growing up, his mother was a clubhouse attendant for the Randburg Mets, and the family lived in one of the clubhouse rooms. He was invited to MLB academy academy in Tirrenia, Italy where the Pirates subsequently signed him in October 2008.
Ngoepe who is a midfielder said when the Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle summoned him from the dugout to play second base in the top of the fourth inning, he felt very emotional.
“I told myself not to cry, because I’m in the big leagues and I’m a big guy,” Ngoepe said. “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.”