History has been made as Gift Ngoepe is now the first African player to make it to the major league, and he did it in a rousing game where the Pirates won 6-5 over the Cubs. Ngoepe was recalled from Pittsburgh’s Triple A team in Indianapolis, where he had signed an amateur free agent deal with the Pirates in 2008. He singled in his first plate appearance when he was brought into the game in the fourth inning as part of a double switch.
Ngoepe nearly broke into tears when he took the field at second base, later explaining how much this meant to him not only personally as the first person out of 1.62 billion to reach this goal, but for his entire continent to see that it is possible.
Catcher Francisco Cervelli hugged Ngoepe in this emotional, historic moment and Ngoepe stated that he could feel his heart beating through his chest in that moment.
The 27-year-old finished 1 for 2 with a walk, but the bigger focus was on the difference Ngoepe was making for the future of Major League Baseball. It’s always been one of the most diverse sports of the four most popular and commercialized in the United States, but this marked the breaking of larger barriers in hopefully moving past the “American Past Time” and becoming a more internationally diverse and recognized league.
Ngoepe’s debut was against the Cubs ace pitcher, Jon Lester, who has yet to record a win this season after five starts. Lester gave up five earned runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings – a vast difference from the 19 wins he earned during the Chicago’s World Series run in 2016.
“It’s probably the best I threw the ball all year,” Lester admitted. “That’s baseball.”
Reliever Wade LeBlanc got the win after pitching 11/3 scoreless innings. Leading up to that, Pittsburgh’s offense helped seal away the win with Josh Harrison’s lead-off homer in the first inning and Josh Bell’s solo homer in the sixth after the Cubs had gotten within two runs; giving the Pirates a 6-3 lead.
This was just the second loss for the Cubs in their last eight games, while it was the Pirate’s third win in their last nine. The Cubs will start Jake Arietta in their next game on Friday, while the Pirates will play the Marlins with Jameson Taillon facing Miami for the first time in his career.
Featured Image via Flickr/Keith Allison