Pirates Bring First African-Born Player To Bigs

The Pirates, who on Tuesday made Dovydas Neverauskas the first born-and-raised Lithuanian to play in the majors, had another first Wednesday.

Pittsburgh called up infielder Gift Ngoepe, a shortstop born in South Africa who signed with the organization in 2008. With the promotion, Ngoepe becomes the first African-born player to reach the major leagues.

Ngoepe became the first black South African to sign a contract with an affiliated club when he caught the Pirates’ eye at a tournament in Italy in 2008. Ngoepe’s story is unique; He was raised in the clubhouse of an amateur baseball team in Randburg, a suburb of Johannesburg, during apartheid while his mother Maureen worked as the team’s cleaning woman and groundskeeper.

Ngoepe, 27, was batting .241 (14-for-58) with three doubles, one triple, one home run and four RBIs in 15 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. He’s known more for his glove than his bat. Last season he was named the best defensive shortstop in the International League after posting a .984 fielding percentage (seven errors in 440 total chances), and has been identified as the Pirates’ best defensive infielder each year since 2013.

Ngoepe, who will wear No. 61, was called up as a depth option with David Freese and Adam Frazier dealing with hamstring injuries.

Neverauskas was sent back to Triple-A to make room on the 25-man roster Ngoepe, who was already on the 40-man roster.

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