The Greats: Marauders Celebrate Black History Month
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are looking back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club. While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are looking back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club.
While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers or, in some cases, just one incredible season that went down as “a year for the ages.”
Here is a look at five of the best Black baseball players ever to suit up for the Marauders.
Evan Chambers (Outfielder, 2011-12) — A third-round draft pick in 2009 out of Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Chambers played nearly 200 games across two seasons for the Marauders, hitting 12 home runs and stealing 31 bases. The Lakeland native brought a radiant smile and a positive presence to the field and the clubhouse.
In December 2013, Chambers died in his sleep at the age of 24 of an undetected genetic heart condition. In his memory, a sign bearing his number 53 adorns the boardwalk in right field at LECOM Park. He was posthumously inducted into the Florida State League Hall of Fame in 2017.
Ke’Bryan Hayes (Infielder, 2017) — The Pirates selected Hayes in the first round of the 2015 draft out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Texas. Hayes enjoyed an outstanding season with the Marauders in 2017, hitting .278 while stealing 27 bases, second-most among Pirates farmhands. He earned a selection to the Florida State League all-star game and was named a Gold Glove award winner at third base for all of Minor League Baseball.
Hayes made his major league debut in 2020 and batted .376 with a .442 on-base percentage in the shortened season, finishing sixth in National League rookie of the year voting.
Hayes is a proud second-generation major leaguer; his father, Charlie, played 14 seasons in the majors from 1988 to 2001, most notably with the Phillies and Rockies.
Cal Mitchell (Outfielder, 2019) — Mitchell, the Pirates’ second-round pick in 2017, patrolled right field for the Marauders throughout the 2019 season and led all Florida State League right fielders with a .977 fielding percentage.
Mitchell’s 15 home runs that season ranked second on the team, and he was selected to the Florida State League all-star game in Jupiter. He started in right field and earned all-star game MVP honors, going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a run scored.
Gift Ngoepe (Infielder, 2010; 2012-13) — Ngoepe, a native of Randburg, South Africa, made baseball history as the first African-born player in the major leagues when he debuted for the Pirates in 2017. On his way to the majors, Ngoepe spent all or parts of three seasons in a Marauders uniform, stealing a total of 29 bases and providing solid infield defense.
Ngoepe made his major league debut on April 26, 2017 at PNC Park, going 1-for-2 with a single in his first at-bat. Time zone differences meant that, in his native South Africa, Ngoepe’s debut fell on the morning of April 27, known as Freedom Day—a date commemorating the nation’s first post-apartheid election.
After brief stints with the Blue Jays and Phillies organizations and a short return to the Pirates’ system in 2019, Ngoepe has continued his career in the independent leagues, most recently with the Quebec Capitales of the Frontier League in 2021.
Cole Tucker (Infielder, 2016-2017) -- The Pirates' first-round pick in 2014, Tucker starred at shortstop for the Marauders in the second half of 2016 and the first half of 2017. In addition to his slick defense, Tucker ran rampant on the basepaths, swiping 41 bases in 133 total games as a Marauder.
On May 12, 2017, Tucker homered from both sides of the plate in a 20-2 Marauders victory, finished a single shy of the cycle, and drove in seven runs, tying a franchise record.
Tucker made his major league debut for the Pirates on April 20, 2019, going 1-for-3 with a two-run homer for his first major league hit.