Major League Baseball Set to Draft First Orthodox Jewish Player
An openly Orthodox Jewish player may be soon be drafted for the first time by Major League Baseball.
The New York Post reported that Jacob Steinmetz — an observant Jew who walks to tournaments on the Sabbath, brings his own kosher food on tour, and recites the traditional prayers daily — has already received a sports scholarship to Fordham University and is projected to be picked by the MLB draft in rounds 3-7.
He has already worked out with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels, and is ranked as the draft’s 181st top prospect by the outlet Baseball America and 121st by MLB.com.
“It’s never been frustrating to me,” Steinmetz said of his Judaism. “It’s just something I’ve always done. It makes me who I am.”
“It’s definitely made [my life] different, but in a good way,” he added.
Fordham has agreed to accommodate Steinmetz’s religious practices, and MLB teams who have been in touch with him and his family have agreed to do the same.
Steinmetz’s father Elliot said his son’s discipline and his commitment to baseball “comes from his relationship with religion. The fact he’s able to interview the way he [does] or have poise the way he does or figure out things the way he does, a lot of it is because of his religious background.”
Steinmetz hit his stride during the COVID-19 pandemic, when without distractions, he began lifting weights and developing his pitching. Within a short time, he was throwing above 90 mph on a consistent basis.
His summer coach, Daniel Corona, said, “He’s already got good stuff and you feel he can get better. He’s not done maturing physically.”
“There’s a difference between being committed, doing all this hard work and having this extra layer,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s ever going to be another Jacob, as far as this whole process goes. He set an example that anything is possible as far as being committed to multiple things at once and still believing in yourself, your dreams, to make them happen.”
Elliot Steinmetz sees his son as a role model, saying, “It’s a great opportunity for [Jacob] to continue to evolve as a leader and continue to show people you can break down certain walls, do certain things, and not have to necessarily sacrifice your background for it.”
“I think he’s the right kid for it, just because he has a good head on his shoulders and he’s mentally tough,” he added. “Hopefully, he’s able to be a light for everybody else.”
Tamir Goodman, a youth basketball star who eventually went professional in Israel after US teams would not accommodate his Orthodox practices, said, “When I look back at it and hear stories about what Jacob’s doing, it just makes me so happy because it makes me feel that these ups and downs I went through [happened] so the next generation — Jacob’s generation — could be a little smoother for them.”
“Maybe he doesn’t need to explain as much, or God forgive he doesn’t have to go through some of the things I went through,” he said.
“It’s very exciting for the Jewish community,” Goodman added.