Neal Huntington

For Pirates' Gift Ngoepe, being the first major league player from Africa is the latest stop in an amazing journey

For Pirates' Gift Ngoepe, being the first major league player from Africa is the latest stop in an amazing journey

When Gift Ngoepe returned to the bag after lining his first major league hit to center field in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park on April 26, he put his head on the shoulder of first-base coach Kimera Bartee, who cradled the Pirates infielder in the crook of his arm like a father embracing a grown son.

There was so much pride and joy in that moment, the culmination of Ngoepe’s eight-year grind through the minor leagues to become the first player from Africa — a continent of 1.2 billion people — to reach the major leagues.

There was also a twinge of sorrow because the woman most responsible for it — Ngoepe’s mother, Maureen, who toiled long hours as a cook and housekeeper to raise three...

EDITION: California | U.S. & World
77°