Mpho Gift Ngoepe made history on Wednesday, becoming the first South African-born player to make his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut in the USA. And his debut was made even more memorable by getting a single in the first at-bat for his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates (basically this means he hit the ball the the first time it was pitched to him… Yes, we don’t really know what this game is about, can you tell?)
Ngoepe has been playing in the US for the past eight years. He got scouted in 2008 by the Pittsburgh Pirates when he was playing at a Major League Baseball’s camp in Italy. He became the first black South Africa to sign a professional baseball contract. He was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis earlier on April 26th to make his MLB debut.
Ngoepe got his love from the game through his mother, Maureen, who he would accompany to work at the Randburg Mets’ baseball clubhouse. Gift’s mother worked as a cleaner for the clubhouse, and they lived in a small room attached to the clubhouse. She passed away in 2013.
“My mother was always there for me, you know, before she passed. She would always be supportive whenever I needed someone to talk to, she’d always be there. She’d celebrate me and cry with me. My mother was always my biggest fan.”
Ngoepe’s brother, Victor, who is also a baseball player, signed for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016, to the delight of Gift who wanted his brother to be near him.
Speaking to reporters at the game, Ngoepe said: “I thought about the moment, where I’ve come from, what I’ve been through all the struggles I’ve been through of Minor Leagues … and the people who have been there for me for been there for me from the beginning. Just the whole atmosphere was really awesome.”