Long Island, New York native Jacob Steinmetz is now the first orthodox Jewish player in Major League Baseball history.
The Arizona Diamondbacks picked the 17-year-old pitcher, the 77th overall selection, in the third round of the 2021 MLB Draft with a slot value of $805,000, according to the New York Post.
The draft started in Denver, Colorado, on Sunday and ends tomorrow.
The 6’-5” 220 lbs. right-hander was not well known outside of his Long Island community before this spring, but made his mark throwing for ELEV8 Baseball Academy in Delray Beach, Florida, during a two-month stint, starting in March, according to MLB.com.
His big pitches are a fastball, which he clocks in the 90-94 m.p.h. range, and his high-spin curveball, as well as his “overhand breaking ball” that leaves hitters mystified.
As an orthodox Jew, Steinmetz keeps kosher and observes the Sabbath, sundown Friday to sunset Saturday, which does not allow him to ride in a car, bus, plane, or train.
According to the Post story, he is allowed to walk and play baseball during that time.
To maintain his religious observations on the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays, Steinmetz travels ahead of time, arriving before the Sabbath or holiday, and then walking to the ballpark to pitch.
While attending baseball tournaments when he was in school, he walked as far as five miles to be able to play.
During the draft process, he explained to prospective teams how he would be able to play while keeping his religious obligations.
He is a graduate of the Hebrew Academy of Five Towns and Rockaway High School in Long Island, and is committed to Fordham University in the Bronx, New York.
“Being in New York and the Northeast area, there’s great competition, but not playing all year-around, a lot of guys take a lot longer to progress and be at their peak,” Steinmetz said in a story on the perfectgame.org website. “So going down to Florida and facing top competition and playing with top guys, it was a great experience. During my second outing, there were a bunch of scouts back behind the plate (and) It took a little bit to get used to. But I think now after a couple of weeks, you definitely get used to it.”
Steinmetz said that he knew there was MLB draft interest in him while in Florida but had also wanted to play baseball for a Division I school while attending college.
He committed to Fordham before the Florida trip and any real prospect of playing professionally became evident.
“If something works out where there is a great opportunity to get into pro ball and develop, we’d be stupid not to consider it,” Jacob’s father Elliot Steinmetz said in the story.
In any case, Jacob’s decision to spend a couple months in the Sunshine State now seem to be paying off.
“It all happened really quickly, honestly,” he said before being picked in the draft and making baseball history. “Now, obviously, things are starting to heat up a bit and going down to Florida was a successful trip. I talk to my parents about it a little and I talk to my advisor about it a little, but I’m not focused on that stuff as much right now...I’m definitely happy and I’m looking forward to the future.”
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