Gift Ngoepe

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Gift Ngoepe
Pittsburgh Pirates – No. 61
Shortstop / Second baseman
Born: (1990-01-18) 18 January 1990 (age 27)
Randburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Bats: Right Throws: Right
MLB debut
April 26, 2017, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
MLB statistics
(through May 25, 2017)
Batting average .235
Hits 12
Home runs 0
Runs batted in 6

Mpho' Gift Ngoepe (born 18 January 1990) is a South African professional baseball shortstop and second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball (MLB).


A native of Randburg, Ngoepe became the first black South African, and the sixth South African to sign a professional baseball contract when he signed in October 2008. When Ngoepe was growing up, his mother was a clubhouse attendant for the Randburg Mets, and they lived in one of the clubhouse rooms.[1] He was invited to Major League Baseball's academy in Tirrenia, Italy, where the Pirates signed him.[2]

In 2009, Ngoepe played for the Gulf Coast League Pirates, and batted .238 with 1 home run and 9 runs batted in (RBI) in 47 games.[3] He was a member of the South Africa national baseball team at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. At the 2009 WBC, he hit consecutive triples off of Mexico's Elmer Dessens in a 14–3 loss to Mexico.[4] On 10 August 2009, Sports Illustrated published an article on Ngoepe titled "A Gift From Africa" which covered how he started his baseball career, his upbringing and time with the Pirates since moving from South Africa.[5] In 2010, he played 64 games with the Short Season-A State College Spikes and 2 with the Advanced-A Bradenton Marauders, batting a combined .206 with 1 home run and 20 RBI.[3] Ngoepe played only 27 games in 2011 due to a hamate injury.[6] He batted .297 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI before the injury.[3]

Ngoepe played the entire 2012 season with Bradenton, and in a then career-high 124 games played he hit .232 with 9 home runs and 36 RBI. He would also play 16 games for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.[3] In 2013, he again began the season with Bradenton, playing 28 games and batting .292 before being promoted to the Double-A Altoona Curve, where he played 72 games. In Altoona, Ngeope batted .177 with 3 home runs and 16 RBI. He made his second trip to the Arizona Fall League at the end of the season, playing 17 games for Scottsdale.[3] In 2014, Ngeope set career-highs in games played and RBI, playing 131 games with Altoona and batting .238 with 9 home runs and 52 RBI.[3] He was invited to 2015 spring training by the Pirates on 9 January 2015.[7] He played for the Indianapolis Indians of the Class AAA International League in 2016.

On 26 April 2017, the Pirates promoted Ngoepe to the major leagues from Indianapolis; this was widely reported as making him the first African-born player in MLB history,[8] though in actuality Canary Island-born Al Cabrera played for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1913.[9][10] Ngoepe made his Major League debut that day, and recorded his first career hit, a single off Cubs' starting pitcher Jon Lester.[11][12][13] Because of time zone differences, Ngoepe's MLB debut fell on the early morning of 27 April in South Africa, observed in that country as Freedom Day, memorializing the 1994 election that was the first in which the country's black population was allowed to vote.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Ngoepe's younger brother, Victor, also plays in the Pirates organization. At a young age he was taken from his family but they were later reunited.[15]


  1. ^ Cassavell, AJ (18 September 2012). "Ngoepe aims to spark South Africa in Classic". Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Hammond, Sean (2 August 2014). "Playing in the present". Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Gift Ngoepe Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Gift Ngoepe could be South Africa's bequest to baseball Chicago Tribune, 15 March 2009
  5. ^ A Gift From Africa Sports Illustrated, 10 August 2009
  6. ^ Williams, Tim (13 March 2012). "Gifted and Talented". Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  7. ^ Brink, Bill (9 January 2015). "Pirates invite eight to spring training in Bradenton, Fla.". Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Pirates' Gift Ngoepe: Promoted by Pirates CBS Sports, 26 April 2017
  9. ^ Zoss, Joel; Bowman, John; Stewart, John (1989). Diamonds in the Rough: The Untold History of Baseball. p. 131. ISBN 0-8032-9920-6. 
  10. ^ "Al Cabrera - Society for American Baseball Research". Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  11. ^ The Associated Press (2017-04-26). "An African Player Reaches the Majors". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  12. ^ Berry, Adam. "Ngoepe makes history, singles in 1st AB". MLB. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  13. ^ Rogers, Jesse. "Pirates rookie Gift Ngoepe on historic night: 'It was just awesome'". ESPN. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  14. ^ McCallum, Kevin (4 May 2017). "For history-making Pirates rookie Gift Ngoepe, clubhouse is home". Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  15. ^ Ngoepe brothers reunite on other side of world — South African natives together in Pirates' farm system. Retrieved 27 April 2017.

External links[edit]