South African-born pitcher, Tayler Scott has made history by becoming the first South African pitcher to feature in a Major League Baseball (MLB) game.
He’s also only the second South African to feature at all in the MLB, after Gift Ngoepe. It’s a tremendous accolade for the 27-year-old. He was born in Johannesburg and made his first appearance for the Seattle Mariners after replacing teammate, Yusei Kikuchi. This was during the fourth innings of a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium.
Scott moved with his family from South Africa to Arizona in his early teens. This ignited his passion for baseball. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs back in 2011, having impressed playing college baseball in Arizona.
Unfortunately for Scott, he never broke through into the senior team. Scott played for a string of Minor League teams like Boise Hawks, Daytona Cubs and the Tennessee Smokies. He was eventually released by the Cubs in March 2016.
Scott then had a few spells in the Minor League with the likes of the Milwaukee Brewers and the Texas Rangers. He eventually secured a MLB contract with the Mariners as a Minor League free agent in December 2018.
Despite starting the 2019 season with Minor League Tacoma Rainiers. Tayler Scott was eventually called up to the team. This happened when All-Star outfielder, Mitch Haniger was ruled out for ten days through injury.
More info about Tayler Scott
During his time on the field, Scott allowed four hits, three runs with a walk. He also achieved four strike-outs in just over two innings. This was while the Mariners fell to a heavy 12-3 defeat to the Angels.
Even though the Mariners aren’t expected to pull up any trees in this year’s MLB season, rated as rank outsiders for the World Series by most sportsbooks, it’s a great starting point for Scott to raise his profile. Surprisingly, just a matter of days after Scott’s debut, he was then claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles than optioned him to Triple-A side, Norfolk.
Although some wouldn’t regard a 27-year-old to be a rookie at MLB level, Scott’s lack of big-game experience means that it’s understandable why the Mariners and Orioles have sought to option him to Minor League teams. Scott will certainly look to take heart from his fellow South African, Gift Ngoepe, who has played significantly more MLB games since making his debut in 2017.
Gift Ngoepe – an inspiration for South African ballers
Gift Ngoepe became the first black South African to agree a professional baseball contract more than a decade ago. It was at the MLB’s academy in Italy where Ngoepe first caught the eye, where the Pittsburgh Pirates first signed him up.
He was then pitched into the Gulf Coast League Pirates side, impressing enough to secure a membership of the South African national baseball team at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He played for a host of other teams, such as the Bradenton Marauders, the Scottsdale Scorpions and then the Indianapolis Indians in the Triple-A International League.
It was big news Stateside when, in April 2017, the Pittsburgh Pirates opted to promoted Ngoepe to the major leagues from the Indians. At the time, the headlines were about Ngoepe becoming the first African-born player in MLB history.
Although this claim was later challenged, as Al Cabrera (been born on the Canary Islands off the coast of north-west Africa) played for the St. Louis Cardinals way back in 1913. Nevertheless, Ngoepe’s appearance for the Pirates was big news. This was the case in South Africa (where the MLB has steadily become a popular sport among the nation’s broadcasters like Fox Sports Africa).
It seemed to be fate that Ngoepe’s debut game for the Pirates would come on South Africa’s Freedom Day. Ngoepe would go on to get his first career hit against the Chicago Cubs’ first-choice pitcher, Jon Lester.
Later that year, Ngoepe was eventually traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. This proved to be a step in the right direction for Gift. He became a part of the Blue Jays’ active roster for the following season.
More info about Ngoepe’s career
At the end of the 2017-18 MLB season, Ngoepe had registered a batting average of .181 from 13 hits and batted in six runs. In April 2018, Ngoepe was eventually optioned to Triple-A side, Buffalo Bisons. However, he was eventually released from the Blue Jays later that year. Ngoepe taking the opportunity to play winter league baseball in Australia for the Sydney Blue Sox.
Ngoepe took this chance with both hands, ending the Australian Baseball League season having batted .357/.451/.700. He flew back to the States earlier this year to agree a Minor League contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, but was released five months later having not played a single game for the Phillies. A short-term Minor League contract offer from Pittsburgh Pirates was again agreed. Ngoepe optioned to Double-A side, Altoona Curve. This happened before winding up at the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. This is currently considered as a tier below the major leagues.
The future of South African baseball
Disappointingly for both Scott and Ngoepe, South Africa’s national baseball team failed to qualify for both the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classic. This has been to the detriment of both players, who haven’t had the exposure their games have demanded. In the 2012 qualifiers for the 2013 Classic, South Africa lost in the loser’s bracket final to the eventual qualifiers, Spain.
Despite that, South Africa remains the top-ranked national baseball team in the African continent. SA is ranked 23rd in the WBSC World Baseball Rankings.
The long-term aim for South African baseball is to launch their very own professional league. This will allow the country to enhance its academy facilities and bring through the next generation of players to go on and emulate Ngoepe and Scott.
As the sport reaches its critical mass in the nation, both on television and on the field, then South Africa could be better placed to compete properly in the World Baseball Classic.
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