Who will be the first South African to play Major League Baseball?* Each of these players share that dream.
SS, S-R, 5' 10", 165, Pietersburg, South Africa
M'Poh "Gift" Ngoepe (born January 18, 1990) plays in the Minor Leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirate. A native of Randburg, Gauteng, Ngoepe became the first Black South African, and the sixth South African to sign a professional baseball contract when he signed in October 2008. He was on the South African roster for the 2012 WBC Qualifier.
Born June 1, 1992. Scott, a much sought after high school pitcher, was drafted in the fifth round by the Chicago Cubs in 2011. Tayler is a pitcher with tremendous upside but limited experience. With a fast ball that has been clocked up to 94mph I would imagine that the Cubs will be happy to refine his talent. Follow Tayler @taylerscottsa
Born July 28, 1994. Mission Viejo, California's Kieran Lovegrove was the 110th pick (3rd Round) by the Cleveland Indians in the 2012 draft. He becomes the highest draft pick out of South Africa. Kieran was committed to pitch for Arizona State University. Kieran has relinquished his spot on the 18U USA trials team.He was on the South African roster for the 2012 WBC Qualifier.@Lovegrove19
Born September 23, 1992. Signed as undrafted free agent by the Seattle Mariners in 2010. Dylan Unsworth played for South Africa in the 2008 World Junior Championship and 2009 Baseball World Cup, at only age 16. He attended the MLB European Academy in 2009. In 2012 Dylan pitched 50 innings, struck out 44 and walked only 1 batter! He was on the South African roster for the 2012 WBC Qualifier. @UnsworthDylan
Anthony Garet Phillips (born April 11, 1990 in Bellville, Western Cape, South Africa) is a South African baseball infielder. He currently plays in the Seattle Mariners organization. Phillips has been drawn comparisons to a "young Chuck Knoblauch" by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Jose Moreno, Phillips former manager, compared his style of play to that of David Eckstein.
Born August 1, 1995. During trials at Hoy Park at the age of thirteen, Callan was noticed by a US scout. He was signed by the Minnesota Twins. He was on the South African roster U18 South African team. WBC Qualifier. Callan was a multi-sport star at Glenwood High School playing crcket, softball and field hockey. @cal_pearce_51
Born April 16, 1996, Rowan Ebersohn signed as an undrafted fee agent with the Minnesota Twins in 2014. In 2013 Rowan represented the South Africa U18 side in a series against Great Britain. Rowan was also selected to represent South Africa in the 2012 World Baseball Classic Qualifier. Rowan received the award for Junior Sportsperson of the Year at the Benoni Northerns Sports Club's annual awards in 2013.
Number of South African-born currently signed to MLB organizations: 7 First South African-born to play MLB: None yet*
First South African-born to be drafted in MLB: Tayler Scott (2011)
South African MLB Prospects: Gift Ngoepe, 5'10", 165lb, INF (Pittsburgh Pirates); Dylan Unsworth, 6' 1", 170lb, RHP (Seattle Mariners); Tayler Scott 6'3", 165lb, RHP(Chicago Cubs); Kieran Lovegrove, 6'4", 185lb, RHP (Cleveland Indians); Dylan De Meyer, 6'4", 165lb, RHP (Seattle Mariners) - Voluntary Retirement List Callan Pearce, RHP (Minnesota Twins) Rowan Ebersohn, (Minnesota Twins)
*Barry Armitage was the first South African-born baseball player ever to make an appearance in any Major League Baseball game when he threw an inning for Kansas City Royals against the Houston Astros in a 2005 exhibition game.
South Africa's baseball weather: Mostly semi-arid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights. Biggest sports competitors: The big three -- soccer, cricket and rugby Approximate number of South Africans playing organized baseball: 70000. Amateur highlights: First victory: 1974 XXIII Baseball World Cup over Italy; first tournament win: Africa-Oceania Olympic qualifier, 1999, went undefeated; first Olympic win: 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney (3-2, over the Netherlands in 10 innings); first Little League affiliated appearance: Big League World Series 2003 (went 1-3). Annual competition: Baseball in South Africa is played under the auspices of the South African Baseball Union and is played at club level with clubs affiliated to provincial (regional) structures. For example, in Cape Town, clubs are affiliated to the Baseball Association of the Western Province.
Editors Comment: South Africa is a notoriously athletic and competitive nation and remains the only African nation to have competed in international events. They competed in the World Baseball Classics and the 2000 Olympics where they finished 8th. Despite a population of over 50 million people, participation in baseball is extremely small. The sport seems to have been hampered by the ever-present politics, infighting and the prevalence of traditional colonial sports like cricket and rugby.
The very nature of the South African athlete and the fact that baseball is relatively inexpensive, compared to the size and maintenance costs of cricket fields, should have resulted in an explosive growth of baseball from its existing roots. Baseball was introduced to the country by American gold miners in the late 1800s. Per Josh Chetwynd, "The Americans were true missionaries for the sport, bringing equipment, creating a baseball diamond, and setting up games. Thanks to their persistence and local interest in baseball, an official league was set up in 1899, and, in September 1904, Transvaal's first official provincial baseball body was formed".
Although baseball was played there for a considerable number of years, it never really became popular, and by 1908 it went into a decline. At the beginning of the Thirties, baseball staged a comeback, this time, simultaneously in Johannesburg and Cape Town. In 1933 the South African Baseball Federation (SABF) - originally known as the South African Baseball Council - was established to promote the game, and with the passage of time it spread throughout the country.
Although the governing bodies in South Africa have done very little to grow the game, stars like Gift Ngoepe and Tayler Scott are causing the American scouts to sit up and take notice. If a nation like the Dominican Republic with a population of less than 10 million produces more than 10% of the players in the Major Leagues, imagine what South Africa could do if properly motivated. Right now, the Australians are blowing us away in this regard and I know you don't want to let that happen. Wayne Williams
Resources for those intersted in pursuing a baseball career: