MLB continues to grow around the world.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the Pittsburgh Pirates are calling up shortstop Gift Ngoepe, the first major leaguer from South Africa and also the first player from any African country.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 26, 2017
It’s the second time this week the Pirates called-up a player from a country that’s never seen MLB action. As Rosenthal notes, pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas of Lithuania was called up earlier this week.
Ngoepe, 27, has risen slowly through the Pirates organization after debuting in the Gulf Coast league back in 2009. The light-hitting infielder possesses little power, but has decent speed and is a plus fielder at shortstop. In nine minor-league seasons, Ngoepe has hit .232 with a .322 OBP and 37 home runs in 704 games.
In 2017, Ngoepe has hit one home run, four RBI with a .241 average and a .308 OBP in 15 games.
The Pirates infield depth has been ripped apart, with Jung Ho Kang stuck in Korea due to visa problems and David Freese going down with a sore hamstring.
Pittsburgh has been forced to use a combination of Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin and Alen Hanson in the infield. Ngoepe’s nothing more than a temporary depth piece with a little chance to stay on the MLB roster long-term, but that doesn’t take away from the significance of his call-up. Being the first player from any country or continent is a HUGE deal.
It’s great to baseball growing around the world. I hope (and would bet) Ngoeope isn’t the last African-born player to suit up. It’s a cool moment for Ngoepe and the league.