Ngoepe returns home after mom’s death

Curve shortstop Gift Ngoepe has been away from the team for three weeks and back home in South Africa tending to family matters after the death of his mother, Maureen.

Ngoepe was able to return home in time to be with his mother before she passed away.

“He was devastated,” said Curve manager Carlos Garcia, who mentioned the death resulted from “some kind of pneumonia.”

“Everything happened so quick,” Garcia added. “He came to my office and expressed what happened, and we just tried to get him over there as quick as we can.”

Ngoepe’s fascinating personal story has been told many times during his baseball career. His mother was attending church one day when she was pregnant with him, and a woman she did not know came up to her and said her child is a gift from God. The woman suggested the child be named Mpho, which translates in English to Gift.

Ngoepe is trying to become the first player from South Africa to reach the major leagues. He is in his first season with the Curve, and in 72 games he has batted .177 with three homers and 16 RBIs.

Ngoepe hasn’t played since June 26, but the Pirates do expect him to return to action this season.

“Gift is planning on coming back as he takes care of some things back home,” Pirates assistant general manager Kyle Stark said in a text to the Mirror. “We’ll get him transitioned back in and prepared to play again when he’s able to return. We expect him to play this year.”

Garcia said Ngoepe could be ready to return in about a week.

“We got in touch with him a couple times, and he says that things are moving along after the funeral,” Garcia said.

When he is ready to return, Ngoepe could need to play some rehab games in Bradenton since he’s had such a long layoff. Drew Maggi has been playing shortstop for the Curve in Ngoepe’s absence.

Garcia can relate to Ngoepe’s personal turmoil as he lost his father during his playing career, and it happened at a prominent time for Garcia and the Pirates. The Bucs were playing the Braves in the 1992 NLCS when Garcia’s father died in Venezuela, but his siblings chose not to tell him until after the playoffs.

“When everything calmed down they gave me the news,” Garcia said.