(Reuters) – Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Gift Ngoepe became the first African-born player to appear in a Major League Baseball game on Wednesday and marked his debut by getting a hit in his first at-bat.
The 27-year-old South African, who was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis earlier in the day, entered the game against the visiting Chicago Cubs in the fourth inning.
When Ngoepe took to the field to play second base, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli and third baseman Josh Harrison each took turns holding their hands up to his chest as if to monitor the rookie’s heartbeat.
In the bottom half of the fourth Ngoepe hit a single up the middle off Cubs left-hander Jon Lester. His first trip to the bases was short-lived, however, as two batters later Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer hit into an inning-ending double play.
Ngoepe finished the game 1-for-2 with a single, walk and strikeout and the Pirates prevailed 6-5.
“It’s a dream come true for me because it’s been my dream since I was a 10-year-old boy, but it also means so much to the people of South Africa and baseball in Africa,” Ngoepe said before the game.
“Baseball is still very much in the development stages (in Africa), and hopefully this gets more people interested.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Peter Rutherford)