Africa's first Major League Baseball player Gift Ngoepe is spending time in Cape Town giving back to local children. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane/ANA

CAPE TOWN – The dreams of aspiring baseball players in Philippi received a major boost when they trained with Major League Baseball (MLB) sensation Gift Ngoepe on Friday. 

Ngoepe, whose debut in the MLB inspired thousands of South Africans, was at Bongolethu Primary School yesterday to teach life skills and develop the sport through the Play Sport4Life programme.

Silas Harger, 11, who plays for Grassy Park Crusaders, said: “Gift taught us a lot today. He’s a really good baseball player. He told us to work harder to achieve our goals.”

Harger followed Ngoepe’s career closely in the US.

He says he was surprised when his father told him the star would be in Philippi and that he would get a chance to play with him.

His teammate, Diego Davids, 11, said: "I want to be as good as him, that’s how I feel (after the session). I learned valuable lessons today from him.”

Addressing the youngsters around him, Ngoepe said: “Play Sport4Life is taking children off the streets and bringing them into the programme so that you don’t do drugs and alcohol and do something positive with your life.

"Play Sport4Life wants youngsters to be seen shining in baseball.”

He said it made him feel good to be able to plough back to the community. 

Ngoepe added that the dusty, uneven ground at Bongolethu Primary reminded him of his days as an aspiring baseball player in Gauteng. He encouraged youngsters to not to allow obstacles like facilities halt their dreams.

He said he will be returning to training in February, but in the meantime, he will be hosting baseball clinics around the country.

Ngoepe is in the city to receive an award from the provincial government.

Carolyn Ingils, Play Sport4Life manager, described Ngoepe’s presence as a big deal for the physical aspect of their life-orientation project in Philippi.

“He’s talented, but today he showed he can teach and mentor our children as well.”

Weekend Argus

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