Pirates rookie Ngoepe 1st African player to reach majors

The Pirates cut MLB's first Lithuanian player to promote MLB's first African player

"Baseball is still very much in the development stages (in Africa), and hopefully this gets more people interested".

When the Pirates called up infielder Gift Ngoepe on Wednesday, the native of South Africa became the first African-born player to appear in the Major Leagues.

The Pirates optioned Dovydas Neverauskas, the first Lithuanian to pitch in the Majors, to Triple A in order to make room for Ngoepe on the active roster.

"Representing my country and my continent‚ and them pushing me every single day‚ is awesome support and love from them‚" Ngoepe said. "There are 1.62 billion people on our continent. He's one of them, 1.62 billion.' Everybody was pulling for him". He's also versatile on defense with the ability to play at third and second base in addition to his natural shortstop position. "[Francisco] Cervelli hugged me and I could feel my heartbeat through my chest".

Ngoepe, who is from from Pietersburg, South Africa, became the first black South African to play professional baseball - at any level - when he signed with the Pirates in 2008. And it wasn't having to sweat out a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs with his Pittsburgh Pirates teammates Wednesday night at PNC Park after they almost squandered a 5-1 lead.

"The less I fought myself, the better off I was", Ngoepe said.

To make his story even more inspiring, the South African-born native started playing in the Pirates' minor league system back in 2008, taking him almost a decade to reach the pinnacle of his career.

Of course, all of the Pirates dalliances with baseball players with unique backgrounds haven't been success stories. "I first saw him 6 ½ years ago in instructional league and he's completely changed".

The 27-year-old Ngoepe was recalled by Pittsburgh from their minor league affiliate Indianapolis earlier in the day. "It was my dream from the time I was a 10-year-old boy to make it to the major leagues and I reached my dream".

"Guys get called up all the time, and it's special, but this is just different", Mercer joked.

Baseball is still a novelty in most of the African continent, where soccer remains by far the most popular sport.

It seems likely that Ngoepe will get into a game quickly, despite Clint Hurdle's tendency to disappear rookies, as it'll be hard for Hurdle to hide (Or is it hide from?) both Ngoepe and Alen Hanson.

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