Gift Ngoepe of South Africa has become the first African-born player to feature in a Major League Baseball (MLB) game.
Ngoepe, who plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a professional U.S. baseball team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was born and raised in Randburg, near Johannesburg, South Africa.
The 27-year-old player has been playing in the lower leagues since he signed for the Pirates in 2008, until Wednesday, when he was given an opportunity to make his first premier debut in the MLB, reports the BBC.
“It’s a dream come true for me because it’s been my dream since I was a 10-year-old boy, but it also means so much to the people of South Africa and baseball in Africa,” Ngoepe told the New York Times before his team’s face off with the Chicago Cubs.
“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.”
After the game, in which the Pirates beat the Cubs 6-5, Ngoepe revealed to MLB.com how he struggled to hold back tears of joy the moment he stepped on to the field.
“I was like, You know what, you’re in the big leagues. You’ve got to be a big guy.’ We live for this kind of moment,” Ngoepe said.
Great Future in Baseball
Ngoepe, who was batting .241 in Class AAA when he was promoted, is considered the best defensive prospect in the American baseball organization.
Many hope he will help to boost his team’s defense, which has been struggling throughout this season.
In the run-up to Wednesday’s clash with the Cubs, the Pittsburgh Pirates were tied for the most errors in the majors, with 19.
Ngoepe’s younger brother, Victor, is also the latest African addition to the Pirates and is flaunted as the next African to feature in MLB.
Baseball is still a new phenomenon in Africa, with very few Africans showing interest in the game.
As of 2010, Africa was the only continent among the six major continents to have not produced a major league player.
Yet, South Africa remains the continent’s top baseball country and has participated in many tournaments, including the 1974 Amateur World Series, World Baseball Classics, and the 2000 Olympics.