Philippi star off to under-18 baseball world cup

Xabiso Mpofu is off to represent the country in the under-18 world cup in South Korea later this month.

Mpofu, 17, is one of nine Capetonians who made the cut to play in the event in South Korea after a long selection process that included players from across the country.

SA will have 20 players who will be looking to impress against sides like the USA and Japan later this month.

His selection was made easy by the brilliant effort he displayed for Western Province at this year’s junior national championships in Port Elizabeth.

It was in 2013 that the Grassy Park Crusaders juniors pitcher first touched a baseball simply because friends were throwing one around.

The burly pitcher started playing ball while at Weltevreden Primary School. He said that while most of his friends prefered soccer, he discovered baseball had more opportunities for travelling and he never wanted to be left behind for a school outing.

The youngster fell in love with the game after a year and decided to join the now defunct Phillipi Angels.

“I was never serious about baseball when I started, but when I learned after a year that there was a baseball school camp coming up and only five people would be selected I started looking at the sport differently.

“I couldn’t just wait all that time and not be selected when the school is travelling so I had to work more on my game,” he says.

In 2017 Xabiso had a stroke of luck when he was scouted by the Grassy Park Crusaders after Phillipi Angels became defunct.

“Fortunately I was invited to be a guest player for Westridge Yankees in an under-23 pre-season tournament where I was spotted by Crusaders who were looking for players.”

This will not be Xabiso’s first experience with the national set-up as he was once invited to join a training squad that only focused on player fitness. Representing Crusaders allowed more opportunities to be spotted by the Western Province selectors which in turn allowed him to showcase his skills to the South African selectors.

SA pitcher Elarios Jared and USA’s Shane Bieber are Xabiso’s role models who he says he hopes to emulate and possibly make his way to the Major League.

SA are pitted against the USA, Japan, Panama, Spain and Chinesse Taipei in their group.

The tournament will run from Friday August 30 to Tuesday September 3 and Xabiso says although the sides in their group are stronger than them on paper, he is hoping for some results to go SA’s way during the tournament.

Xabiso and his family are excited about the prospect of him playing abroad, however, raising funds to get there is not easy.

If you would like to help get Xabiso to the world cup, call Cape Town Baseball Federation PRO Deidrie Marquard on 083 570 0777 or visit backabuddy.