New Toronto Blue Jays signing Gift Ngoepe says raising the profile of baseball in South Africa is a monumental task -- but one he is more than willing to take up.
The 27-year-old, who recently signed for Toronto from fellow MLB franchise Pittsburgh Pirates, is the country -- and continent's -- most high-profile player, having made his Majors debut on April 27 this year.
Having fought his way through the system from the bottom up for nine years, Ngoepe is now looking to make the journey a little bit easier for his fellow South Africans, but he admits he faces a tough fight against the 'big three' of soccer, rugby, and cricket.
"Baseball is going to be hard to grow in this country because you compete with three other major sports," he told Kwesé TV's Seriously Sports show. "It's kind of hard to get children ... kids, at a young age to come to baseball and to try out at least.
"Right now we are trying to put some plans together to see if we can grow the sports from a youth development first, and then become bigger in the next couple of years, or whenever the plan comes in process."
Ngoepe recalled his struggles for nearly a decade before finally getting the call to the Majors seven months ago, and how he nearly gave up a few times along the way.
"I'd been in the USA for nine years; well, eight years before I made it to the Major League," he said. "During that eight-year period I had some difficulties; my very first year I ran into some problems -- I was a little homesick -- so I wanted to come home and be with my mom and my brothers.
"Along the way I had some injuries which my feel like 'I don't know if the team is going to take me back', and then in 2013 my mom passed away and I almost packed it up.
"But luckily my friends and family have always been there for me, pushing me and telling me not to quit, and to continue pursuing my dream."
Ngoepe hopes his watershed moment in April can inspire the youth back home, and also encourage MLB scouts to search for more rough diamonds in South Africa.
"Hopefully there will be more scouts out to South Africa to see the talent that we have. South Africa is a very talented country with a lot of athletes that just need to be blossomed out there," Ngoepe concludes.