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It seems Pope Francis needs to brush up on his Tertullian!

It has been reported (in The ChristLast Media, I must note) that the current Pope does not like the phrase "lead us not into temptation...

"Let no freedom be allowed to novelty, because it is not fitting that any addition should be made to antiquity. Let not the clear faith and belief of our forefathers be fouled by any muddy admixture." -- Pope Sixtus III

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Welcome to the show, rook!

From Pittsburgh's other newspaper:

Gift Ngoepe: 'No matter where you are … you can still make it ...

Pittsburgh April 26, 2017 - Gift Ngoepe walked into the Pirates clubhouse at PNC Park Wednesday wearing a smile and a green polo shirt from his days playing for South Africa in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He found his locker, his No. 61 jersey and reunited with old teammates from these past nine years.

With his promotion to Pittsburgh, Ngoepe, 27, became the first African-born player to reach the major leagues. His arrived Wednesday and replaced right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas, who on Monday made history as the first Lithuanian in the majors, on the Pirates roster.

“Everything is breathtaking right now,” said Ngoepe (pronounced n-GO-pay). “This just shows [that] it doesn’t matter where you come from. No matter where you are, who you are, you can still make it."

Ngoepe and his Class AAA Indianapolis teammates were stretching in the batting cages during a rain delay Tuesday in Pawtucket, R.I., when manager Andy Barkett entered. His next words, Ngoepe recalled, were these: “Well we sent the European. Now they’re looking for the African.”

Gift Ngoepe gets his first major league hit in the fourth inning against the Cubs Wednesday.

Stephen J. Nesbitt
One in a billion: Gift Ngoepe, MLB's first African-born player, singles in debut

After 704 games in the minors, Ngoepe was bound for Pittsburgh.

Manager Clint Hurdle called the call-up “a fabulous organizational win.” He applauded the trailblazer Ngoepe, a 5-foot-8 slick-fielding shortstop and utility infielder, and said, “I would love for him to have $1 for everybody who has looked at him and said he’ll never make it.”

“It was a long road,” Ngoepe admitted. “There were a few times I wanted to stop. … I cannot describe the feeling right now. It hasn’t hit me yet, I guess. When Clint calls me onto the field ... I think that’s when everything will come together. I’ll probably burst into tears.

“It’s a dream come true for me. It’s something I always wanted as a little kid. I told someone when I was 10 or 12 years old I was going to make it to the big leagues. That day has come.”

To simply say Ngoepe grew up around baseball is insufficient. His mother, Maureen, raised Ngoepe and his little brother, Victor, in a tiny room attached to the clubhouse at a ballpark in Randburg, South Africa. Maureen worked for the team, the recreation-league Randburg Mets. That ramshackle room and endless support from his mother, Ngoepe said, “is what made me.”

One day, a coach saw Ngoepe throwing a ball against the wall and invited him to play with the team. After years and years of development, he showed promise coaches had not seen locally. It was during a under-17 tournament in Mexico in 2005 when Tom Randolph, then a coach for the Czech Republic team, saw Ngoepe play. The kid from South Africa was hard to forget.

Randolph saw Ngoepe again in 2008 at a three-week Major League Baseball academy in Italy. By then, Randolph was an international scout for the Pirates — he would later sign Neverauskas for $60,000. Ngoepe recalled crossing paths with Randolph in the batting cages.

Gift Ngoepe takes part in batting practice before the Pirates face the Cubs on Wednesday.

Bill Brink
Pirates call up Gift Ngoepe, first African-born player to reach MLB

“Did you come here to get signed or to learn more?” Randolph asked.

“I came here to learn more about baseball,” Ngoepe replied. “but if I get signed it would be a bonus.”

“Well, you’re getting signed,” Randolph said.

After a conference call with the Pirates, the 18-year-old Ngoepe agreed to a $15,000 signing bonus and became the first black South African to sign a professional baseball contract.

“I draw inspiration from his character, determination, and persistence,” Randolph said Wednesday by text message. “And I wish him the highest degree of good luck and fortune.”

Held back by his offense — a .232 average and .322 on-base percentage in the minors — Ngoepe is here because of his elite defense abilities. For those, he credits Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin. At the league’s academy in Italy, Larkin took Ngoepe under his wing.

“How do you field a ground ball?” Larkin asked one day.

“You get to the ball, catch it and throw,” Ngoepe said.

“No,” Larkin said. “You catch the ball with your feet. If you move your feet toward the ball, work through the ball, you’re able to make a good throw every single time.”

When asked Wednesday to name his best tool, Ngoepe grinned and said, “My hands are my greatest tools. They work in the way of a magician.” Josh Bell, the Pirates first baseman, recalled hearing the “awe” of the fans in the minors after Ngoepe’s spectacular plays and then seeing “the baserunner running down the line pissed off like, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

In recent years, Ngoepe has worked double duty as a Pirates prospect and an agent for his brother, Victor, a 19-year-old now playing for the Gulf Coast League Pirates. Ngoepe called Victor late Tuesday and told him the news of his promotion. It sounded like Victor jumped for joy, Ngoepe said, and then “ran around the whole Pirate City telling everybody.”

On Sunday, Ngoepe found himself thinking about his mother, who died in 2013. He sat silently for 20 minutes or so in his Indianapolis apartment, wishing he had a way to communicate.

“I know she’s looking down on me,” Ngoepe said before pulling on his Pirates uniform. “I know she’s happy, because I told her this moment would come since I was a little kid.”

TheChurchMilitant: Sometimes anti-social, but always anti-fascist since 2005.

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