Ngoepe with the Altoona Curve in 2013
|Sydney Blue Sox|
|Shortstop / Second baseman|
Born: 18 January 1990|
Pietersburg, South Africa
|26 April, 2017, for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|MLB statistics |
(through 19 April 2018)
|Runs batted in||6|
Mpho' Gift Ngoepe (born 18 January 1990) is a South African professional baseball shortstop and second baseman for the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League. He previously played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays. In 2017, he became the first native of continental Africa to reach the Major Leagues.
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. He was invited to Major League Baseball's academy in Tirrenia, Italy, where the Pirates signed him.
In 2009, Ngoepe played for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates, and batted .238 with one home run and nine runs batted in (RBI) in 47 games. 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. 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. In 2010, he played 64 games with the Short Season-A State College Spikes and two with the Advanced-A Bradenton Marauders, batting a combined .206 with one home run and 20 RBI. Ngoepe played only 27 games in 2011 due to a hamate injury. He batted .297 with two home runs and five RBI before the injury.
Ngoepe played the entire 2012 season with Bradenton, and in a then career-high 124 games played he hit .232 with nine home runs and 36 RBI. He also played 16 games for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. 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 three 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. In 2014, Ngeope set career-highs in games played and RBI, playing 131 games with Altoona and batting .238 with nine home runs and 52 RBI. He was invited to 2015 spring training by the Pirates on 9 January 2015. He played for the Indianapolis Indians of the Triple-A 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. Indeed, he was the first continental African (and the first player from an African nation) to reach the Major Leagues. Some point out that Canary Islands-born Al Cabrera played for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1913. While the Canary Islands are part of Spain and have been since before Cabrera played in the Major Leagues, the archipelago is located off the coast of northwestern Africa.
Regardless, Ngoepe made his Major League debut that day, and recorded his first career hit, a single off Cubs' starting pitcher Jon Lester. 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.
Toronto Blue Jays
On 20 November 2017, Ngoepe was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations or a player to be named later. He earned a spot on the active roster to begin the season, and was optioned to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons on 20 April. He was designated for assignment on 3 May 2018. Ngoepe was released from the organization on 13 August 2018.
Sydney Blue Sox
Ngoepe's younger brother, Victor, plays in the Pirates organization.
- Cassavell, AJ (18 September 2012). "Ngoepe aims to spark South Africa in Classic". MLB.com. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Hammond, Sean (2 August 2014). "Playing in the present". post-gazette.com. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- "Gift Ngoepe Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Gift Ngoepe could be South Africa's bequest to baseball Chicago Tribune, 15 March 2009
- A Gift From Africa Sports Illustrated, 10 August 2009
- Williams, Tim (13 March 2012). "Gifted and Talented". piratesprospects.com. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Brink, Bill (9 January 2015). "Pirates invite eight to spring training in Bradenton, Fla". post-gazette.com. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Pirates' Gift Ngoepe: Promoted by Pirates CBS Sports, 26 April 2017
- "Al Cabrera Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
- The Associated Press (2017-04-26). "An African Player Reaches the Majors". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- Berry, Adam. "Ngoepe makes history, singles in 1st AB". MLB. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
- Rogers, Jesse. "Pirates rookie Gift Ngoepe on historic night: 'It was just awesome'". ESPN. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
- McCallum, Kevin (4 May 2017). "For history-making Pirates rookie Gift Ngoepe, clubhouse is home". ESPN.com. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
- Chisholm, Gregor (November 20, 2017). "Blue Jays acquire Ngoepe from Bucs". MLB.com. Retrieved November 20, 2017.
- Davidi, Shi (20 April 2018). "Blue Jays call up Gurriel Jr., option Mayza and Ngoepe". Sportsnet. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
- "Blue Jays' Gift Ngoepe: DFA'd by Toronto". 3 May 2018. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
- "Blue Sox land former MLB shortstop". ABL.au. 30 August 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
- Ngoepe brothers reunite on other side of world — South African natives together in Pirates' farm system. MLB.com. Retrieved 27 April 2017.