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South African Baseball Player Makes Major League History, Adds a Hit

  • VOA News

Pittsburgh Pirates' Gift Ngoepe, a native of South Africa, and the first baseball player from the continent of Africa to play in the Major Leagues celebrates with first base coach Kimera Bartee (18) after getting a single off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher

South African Gift Ngoepe became the first person born on the African continent to appear in a Major League Baseball game. He made his debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday night.

The 27-year-old infielder also got his first Major League hit when he knocked a single through the infield into center field in the fourth inning. He reached base again with a walk in the sixth inning.

"It was a pretty awesome feeling," Ngoepe told reporters after the game, which the Pirates won 6-5 over the defending champion Chicago Cubs.

Pittsburgh Pirates' Gift Ngoepe, a native of South Africa, and the first baseball player from the continent of Africa to play in the Major Leagues, hits a single off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester in his first at-bat in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, April 26, 2017.
Pittsburgh Pirates' Gift Ngoepe, a native of South Africa, and the first baseball player from the continent of Africa to play in the Major Leagues, hits a single off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester in his first at-bat in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, April 26, 2017.

The Pirates signed Ngoepe when he was a teenager, and he has played in more than 700 games for the team's minor league affiliates since 2009.

He said after his hit he thought about all those years and the struggles he went through at the lower levels. Ngoepe also described the excited reaction from his teammates.

"They all screamed, 'For the motherland!' It was pretty fun hearing them say that," he said.

Before the game, the native of Pietersburg talked about the impact of reaching the league with the world's top baseball players.

"It means a lot to people back home," Ngoepe said. "It means that it doesn't matter where you come from and no matter where you are or who you are you can still make it."

Baseball is far from the most popular sport in South Africa where football, cricket and rugby get more attention. But Ngoepe said he hopes what he is doing will get more people interested in the game.

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