INDIANAPOLIS – Former Indianapolis Indians continue to make baseball history.
Just a couple of days after reliever Dovydas Neverauskas became the first born and raised Lithuanian to play in a major league game, the Pittsburgh Pirates are set to make infielder Gift Ngoepe the first ever African-born big league player. The 27-year-old is from South Africa, but it goes beyond that, as there has never been a player from the entire continent of Africa to make it to the majors.
Ngoepe was signed by the Pirates as a non-drafted free agent in 2008 and the shortstop has been with the Tribe since 2015. He played in just 21 games with Indy in 2015, but posted a .217 batting average with 27 RBIs in 102 appearances with the club in 2016.
The right-handed hitter piled up 14 knocks in 58 at-bats with the Indians this season, but is known much more for his defense. Ngoepe was the International League’s best defensive shortstop in 2016, recording a .984 fielding percentage (seven errors in 440 chances). Baseball America also ranked him as the Pirates farm system’s “top defensive infielder” for five straight seasons (2013-17).
Ngoepe is scheduled to join Pittsburgh as their series with the Chicago Cubs continues. Neverauskas, who tossed two innings of one-run ball while with the Bucs, has been optioned back to Indianapolis.