Of all the sports, baseball is one that has always attracted many Jewish ballplayers. There are currently a number playing in the Major Leagues including Alex Bregman and Max Fried and Dean Kremer.
Jacob Steinmetz, a teenager from Woodmere would like to add his name to that list and is committed to pitch for the Fordham Rams next season. Steinmetz spoke to Sam Schwartz of The Sports Rabbi to discuss his early development as an athlete, the college recruitment process, and his Jewish identity as it relates to his baseball career. Below are highlights from the conversation.
SS: When did you know you could be a Division One athlete?
JS: Beginning of tenth grade, because before that I still was pretty tall but I wasn’t as tall as I am now. I had a pretty good growth spurt in between ninth and tenth, then throughout tenth also, so then once the beginning of tenth grade hit then as tenth grade progressed I was pretty confident in myself.
SS: So you think it was mostly a physicality thing, once you had grown you had more confidence?
JS: I think that definitely helped, just growing and getting stronger naturally definitely gave a good boost, and then once I had that it pushed myself to start working harder.
SS: So what is the process to get colleges’ attention? get in front of coaches? get in front of scouts?
JS: Usually you’ll have a coach that’s either friendly with a coach, even you’ll reach out to the coaches or schools yourself by sending an email. You’ll put your name, send some video highlights, or your coach will give the college coach your name and send some highlights of you. The colleges have baseball camps where they bring down a bunch of their recruits to see them all together, once you go to that if you catch their eye then you become in contact with the coach. I happened to get the coach’s number there (Fordham) and then I was texting him throughout, sent him my schedules for when I played over the summer and travel. He came to see me a bunch of times, and then he gave me an offer for a scholarship after I went to another one of the camps and then I accepted it.
SS: How long was there between Fordham’s initial interest and your scholarship offer?
JS: I think I went to my first camp there in tenth grade, and that was more just because my coach was friendly with the coach there so I went down there. At that point I wasn’t as tall, it was before I hit my growth spurt, or while I was in the middle, so I wasn’t throwing as hard. They were like yeah we’ll keep an eye out for sure. Then as you go through you want to send out video as well so you keep catching these colleges’ attention, and then once they got the video and they saw me grow and get stronger and throwing harder they’re like alright we’ll go see this kid. So I got the coaches number from my travel coach and he put me in touch, I sent the coach from Fordham my schedule and where I was pitching, and when. I’d say he maybe came to three or four games, but definitely saw a lot more video, and probably saw me pitch three or four times more in other camps and showcases. Then eleventh grade they offered me and I accepted a couple weeks later.
SS: Why Fordham?
JS: I wanted to stay close to home, it’s an hour away from my house, that was definitely helpful. It seemed like it’s a great academic school, good athletic program, good baseball program that just won a conference here before. I love the coaches, the facilities. You’re able to get a campus feel there, even though it’s still in the city.
SS: Were you choosing between any other offers?
JS: I had another offer from a small school, Wagner, in Staten Island. I was considering that pretty heavily I’d say, but Fordham was always my top option. There were a couple other schools if I waited, maybe I could have gotten an offer from them, but Fordham was probably my top option; it definitely made the most sense at that point.
SS: So are you playing right now? Do you have a season this year?
JS: High School baseball we’re not sure, for travel baseball I’ll probably have one in the season.
SS: Do you feel a personal responsibility, now that you know you’re going to be playing at Fordham, that most of the time when you take the field you are the only Jew?
JS: I don’t know if It’s personal responsibility as much as it is a cool experience. I know for myself now that I’m one of, if not the only Orthodox Jew to be at that stage in baseball, or in that stage in a baseball career where they’re having D1 offers and talking to MLB scouts. So it’s just cool for me that I’m able to realize I’m one of if not the only one and hopefully leading a path for other people.
SS: So you want to play professional baseball, that’s the goal?
JS: Yeah,that’s my goal
SS: And so you’re Orthodox, you don’t do anything on Shabbat?
JS: That’s something that I talk to my parents about a lot, for Fordham that was one of the other things that went into it. They were able to, they weren’t obviously able to guarantee it, but they told me they would do everything that they could for me to be able to work it out. I’d maybe have to stay in a hotel on Friday and then walk to the fields if it’s not too far then bike to the fields. With Kosher food, they said they’d figure out getting it for me which was great, so that definitely helped out with that choice.
SS: So you’re starting for the Yankees, they have an ALDS game on a Saturday?
JS: I’d either have to travel and do as little as I could to break Shabbos, try to keep it as much as I possibly could, or hopefully by then they’ll figure it out we’ll see.