In April, this year, South Africans were hastily Googling things like “getting a single in the first at-bat” and other baseball-related terms when it emerged that the first-ever black South African player would be making his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut. Mpho Gift Ngoepe made history by being the first South African in the MLB, and now he wants to make baseball a big thing in South Africa. The Daily Vox rounds up.
Ngoepe was back in the news last week because his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Ngoepe to the Toronto Blue Jays.
We’ve acquired INF Gift Ngoepe from the Pirates for cash considerations or a player to be named later.
ðŸ”µ OF Harold Ramirez & RHP Chris Rowley outrighted
ðŸ”µ INF Rob Refsnyder claimed off waivers by Cleveland pic.twitter.com/DM36AZBtLS
â€” Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) November 20, 2017
Ngoepe’s record for the Pirates stands at a .222 in 28 games. He has also spent a large part of the season at Triple-A Indianapolis. Yeah, we’re still a little confused at what most of this baseball lingo means tbh.
He’s speaking our language though. SA’s first MLB baseball player wants to get the whole of the African continent interested in baseball. With the reintroduction of baseball as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Tokyo Games, Ngoepe hopes that this will cause more of an interest in the game.
“The game is developing in South Africa, and the MLB are sending scouts. If we can really tap into the athleticism of our country, we can do well.”
The Olympics can certainly help with that, too. They are going to be phenomenal and hopefully will lead to lots of exposure for our game. It’s tough to rival cricket, rugby and soccer, but some doors might open, and the sport can grow in Africa,” he said.
Team SA has played on the world stage such as the Olympics, World Baseball Series and World Cup. In the 2000 Olympic Games, South Africa came out in eighth position. However, in the 1999 and 2003 All Africa Games, the team has won gold.
Ngoepe is also excited about the prospect of possibly being able to represent South Africa at the Olympics (if they qualify) and even more so to be able to play with his brother, Victor. He is aware of the challenges that are facing baseball in South Africa, especially where it is not a professional sport and not a lot of games are played. However, Ngoepe seems determined to inspire young players in South Africa to take up the sport.
It looks like it’s time to start studying up on that baseball lingo, especially if Team SA and Gift Ngoepe get their chance to do all of the things in Tokyo 2020.