News / Opinion / Columns

Jon Swift
2 minute read
26 May 2018
8:15 am

Can Saru’s Mark Alexander cough up, please?

Jon Swift

I personally pledge R2 000 towards baseball player Tapiwa Nyamayawo’s travel fund, and challenge Saru president Mark Alexander to match it.

What he has accomplished shines with a radiant pride spread across the young man’s open features.

Tapiwa Nyamayawo had been selected for the Under-23 national baseball team scheduled to go to Nicaragua.

In many ways, this represents the first step towards realising the dream that Gift Ngoepe convincingly proved was possible when he became the first African player to make the giant leap from a continent which remains largely a mystery to the average American, into the rarified world of major league baseball.

You only have to speak the name “Gift”, to understand the reverence and affection with which he is held within the South African baseball fraternity. And Ngoepe never gave up giving his all to the contract he had signed in 2008 with Pittsburgh Pirates in the minor leagues, waiting for the break he was certain would come.

On April 26, 2017 – ironically a day before SA celebrated Freedom Day to mark the first democratic elections in 1994 – that break happened. Pirates promoted Ngoepe to the major leagues from Indianapolis, and he recorded his first career hit – a single off Cubs’ starting pitcher Jon Lester.

Ngoepe earned a spot on the active roster as a short stop or second baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays, after being traded by the Pirates last November.

The ambition shines like a light in Nyamayawo – for it is evident Ngoepe has opened the eyes of African players that they can indeed make it to the majors.

That said, I personally pledge R2 000 towards Nyamayawo’s travel fund, and challenge the president of the SA Rugby Union, the controlling body for a privileged sport literally awash in willing sponsorship money, Mark Alexander, to match it.

Alexander was the big kahuna of SA baseball and through his heavyweight involvement in the South African Olympic movement, instrumental in sending a team of no-hit wonders to the 2000 Games in Sydney.

It might not get the young man – confident of his talent and deeply committed to the sport he is clearly good at, yet marooned in the backwaters of baseball – to Nicaragua, or even set him on the first steps towards emulating the heights Ngoepe has scaled.

But equally clearly, Nyamayawo does not deserve the cards he has been dealt.

Jon Swift.

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