Overview

Mpho Gift Ngoepe is a professional baseball player whom since the 26th of April 2017 became the first black South African to play in the Baseball Major League with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was also the first black South African to sign a professional baseball contract back in 2008.

Gift Ngoepe was born in the province of Limpopo in 1990 to a domestic worker mother. His mother worked as a cleaner at the Randburg Mets in Johannesburg and Gift staying with her at the back room she occupied at the club, he learnt to play baseball from a really young age and has represented South Africa in international baseball tournaments since he was a teenager, was signed to the Pirates in 2008 and got his big break nine years later when he was finally promoted to the Pirates’ first team on the 26th of April 2017.

Early Life
Gift was born in Pietersburg, now Polokwane, in the province of Limpopo in South Africa and he stayed there with his grandparents while his mother was in Johannesburg working as a domestic worker for a local baseball club. Gift was not supposed to live with his mother as this was not allowed by the club but when Gift drank a bottle of cooking oil as a baby, he got extremely sick and his mother decided to ask the club bosses if he could come stay with her. From the time he arrived in the club grounds, he started balling almost instantly at the age of three.

BASEBALL
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. 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 2 with the Advanced-A Bradenton Marauders, batting a combined .

206 with 1 home run and 20 RBI. Ngoepe played only 27 games in 2011 due to a hamate injury. He batted .297 with 2 home runs and 5 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 9 home runs and 36 RBI. He would also play 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 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. In 2014, Ngoepe 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.

The Major Leagues
Ngoepe made his Major League debut on Wednesday with a single off Cubs left-hander Jon Lester in his first at-bat, which served as a preview for his performance on Friday. Batting eighth, Ngoepe reached base in all five of his plate appearances, contributing three hits to Pittsburgh’s 12-run, 18-hit assault. Ngoepe has more of a defensive reputation, so anything he can provide on offense for the Pirates is a plus.