The Pirates recalled the infielder from Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday, making him the first player from
“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
“I’ve gotten plenty from people back home who are so excited. Baseball is still very much in the development stages (in
The Pirates optioned right-handed reliever Dovydos Neverauskas to
The 27-year-old Ngoepe was born in
Ngoepe was not in the starting line-up on Wednesday, but marked his debut by getting a hit in his first at-bat. The 27-year-old South African 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.
What a moment. pic.twitter.com/59UyHlrdz3
“I was holding it back,” Ngoepe told the Pirates website after the match. “I was like, ‘You know what, you’re in the big leagues. You’ve got to be a big guy.’ … We live for this kind of moment.”
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.
“I’ve dreamt about this over and over and over,” Ngoepe said. “And it lived up to every aspect of the dream that I had as a kid.
You had to be here. pic.twitter.com/ICtJ6w81Yp
“(First-base coach Kimera Bartee) said, ‘You’re going to make me cry.’ I’m like, ‘You’re going to make me cry.’ I had a couple tears rolling down a little bit, but I kept it together. I’m like, ‘No, I can’t do this right now.’ All the emotions crashed into one for me right there.”
Mercer also couldn’t hide his excitement.
“Jordy just kept telling everybody, ‘He’s representing 1.62 billion people!’” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle recalled. “There’s one of him. One-point-six-two billion!”
The estimated population is actually around 1.216 billion, but the Pirates website reports that Mercer got the 1.62 billion figure from Ngoepe, as he wanted to know exactly what his South African teammate had achieved.
“I couldn’t get over it,” Mercer said. “He’s like the 18 000th person to ever put on a big league uniform, ever, which is cool, too. But he’s one of 1.62 billion. That’s incredible.”
AP, Reuters, Staff Writer