First African-Born Baseball Player: Gift Ngoepe

First African-Born Baseball Player: Gift Ngoepe

James Kim, Staff Writer

Meet Gift Ngoepe, the 27-year-old Pittsburgh Pirate infielder. He is the first African-born player to play in the big leagues. Although there are many African Americans in the MLB, there has never been an African player, until now.

When he was young, Gift Ngoepe was influenced by his mother to play baseball. His mother, Maureen, worked at a baseball clubhouse by cleaning, cooking food, and selling merchandise. She, Gift, and her two other boys lived in a small room in the clubhouse. As he was surrounded by the game when growing up, Gift learned the game from players on the team. By the time he was a teenager, he was a prodigy. Gift attended Major League Baseball’s academy in Italy, where he worked on the game with Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. He noticed Gift’s athleticism and baseball skills. Pittsburgh Pirate scout Tom Randolph noticed his talent and became interested in signing him.

In 2008, Gift signed with the Pirates for $15,000. He had a slow start to his career; through his first four seasons, he did not play above Class A. Despite his strong defense, he struggled at the plate, all while dealing with the death of his mother. However, he pursued his dream and the next four years were filled with success at the AAA level. This earned him the call-up last month when the Pirates needed a middle infielder. In his first at-bat, he knocked a single off all-star Jon Lester.

This is the start of a career with much potential. Gift Ngoepe has gone through much adversity, off and on the field. However, his perseverance has earned him a shot in the bigs and he will continue to display his talent for all to see.

Picture credit: USA Today