Steinmetz sets standard as first Orthodox Jew selected at MLB Draft

Jul 14, 2021 | Jews in Sports

Jacob Steinmetz made history this week after becoming the first known Orthodox Jew to be selected in the Major League Draft when the Long Island native went in the third round, 77th overall to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I’m very excited to get to work and looking forward to the future,” Steinmetz said after being drafted.
 
The right-handed flamethrower from Woodmere attended the Hebrew Academy of Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) and while he is slated to head to Fordham College following high school he still may sign with the Diamondbacks and begin his professional career. This past year also saw Steinmetz hone his trade at the Elev8 Baseball Academy in Delray Beach, Florida where he was able to sharpen his skills while also raising his draft stock.
 
Steinmetz still has a long way to go until joining the likes of Max Fried, Alex Bregman and Joc Pederson, but being drafted moves him one step closer to his ultimate goal of one day taking to the mound of a Major League park.
 
Having been ranked at #121 by MLB.com, Steinmetz is said to have high quality pitches in his fastball and curve while throwing the former between 90-94 mph. The belief is that as he continues to grow the velocity will increase as well. Scouts are impressed with his delivery and think that he will be able to consistently find the strike zone with more reps and instruction.
 
At 6-5, 220-pound Steinmetz is an imposing presence for any batter to face and heading to a Division One college will continue to allow him to develop his pitching skills. It was when he had his growth spurt that the realization that the goal of being a Division I athlete was a possibility as his confidence grew.

 
“I had a pretty good growth spurt in between ninth and tenth grades,” explained Steinmetz. “As tenth grade progressed I was pretty confident in myself and just growing and getting stronger naturally definitely gave me a good boost. Once I had that it pushed myself to start working harder.”
 
Steinmetz played during the summer on travel teams which allowed him to get the attention of colleges along the way and that’s exactly how he landed up in the Bronx based school.
 
“The Fordham coach 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. I wanted to stay close to home, it’s an hour away from my house and 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.”
 
Being an Orthodox Jew brings along a number of challenges and for athletes, those challenges perhaps will be even greater than for the average person.
 
Tamir Goodman the “Jewish Jordan” was one of the most famous observant Jews to play at a Division I basketball program when he plied his trade at Towson University back in 2000. Goodman was originally headed to Maryland University but the opportunity fell through due to his faith with games being played on the Sabbath which falls out on Friday nights and Saturdays.
 
While keeping kosher, praying three times a day and following the many rituals and customs are in itself something out of the ordinary, observing the Sabbath takes Judaism to an entirely different level of responsibility where one can’t drive or even use electricity.  


“I don’t know if it’s a 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 this stage in baseball, or at the stage in a baseball career where there are D1 offers while also 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.”


“As for the Sabbath, 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 weren’t obviously able to guarantee it, but they told me that 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.”

Also at the MLB Draft a second Orthodox Jewish Player in Elie Kligman from Nevada was selected by the Washington Nationals with the 593rd pick in the 20th round.

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