I first heard the name Steinmetz three years ago while participating in a weekly Gemara class associated with Yeshiva University. The director of the program was Rabbi Jonah Steinmetz. I learned that Rabbi Steinmetz’s brother was Elliot Steinmetz, the winning head coach of the YU basketball team. My teacher casually mentioned that Yeshiva was recruiting Coach Elliot Steinmetz’s son, Jacob, to play basketball, but he would likely choose to play baseball instead. Earlier this month, I received a Whatsapp notification that an Orthodox Jew was making headlines as a potential high draft pick in the MLB draft: it was none other than Jacob Steinmetz.
Despite Steinmetz going to a small Jewish day school on Long Island, he continued to impress scouts at the MLB Draft Combine and was selected with the 77th overall pick to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third round of the draft. He is the first Orthodox Jew in history to be drafted. In a pleasant surprise, in the last round of the draft, the Washington Nationals selected Elie Kligman, another young Orthodox Jew. Both players plan to carry their faith proudly and plan to observe Shabbos. “The day of Shabbos is for God. I’m not going to change that,” Kligman said when asked if he could be enticed to break Shabbos.
As a religious Jew, many emotions stirred while watching Steinmetz and Kligman getting drafted. Above all else, I felt a tremendous sense of pride. It is rare to see a Jew playing professional sports, all the more so with a religious Jew. To see two Shabbos-observant players get drafted definitely gave me a sense of pride in my people. I could also see that it was not just me. As I was scrolling through “Frum Instagram,” I continued to see different videos and posts about the Orthodox Jew getting drafted to the MLB. Almost every Jewish media outlet and well-known social media account boasted with pride about Jacob Steinmetz. A video of the moment Steinmetz got drafted started circulating and anyone who watched it could see the pride of his family and friends as he made history. This was not just Steinmetz’s and Kligman’s accomplishment; this was the accomplishment of our entire community. Many are also feeling a sense of “can.” While I personally will not be playing in the MLB anytime soon, I can only imagine the number of little kids who are just now going to pick up a glove for the first time because they are thinking, “if they can, why can’t I?” Many religious Jews are told they cannot play professional sports, whether because of religious conflict, perceived lack of athletic ability, or because it is just es past nisht, or inappropriate for religious Jews. Maybe now, instead of doubting their sons and daughters, more parents will encourage their children to pursue sports alongside their religious commitments. With religious Jews in the professional sports world, maybe more young Jewish kids will watch with admiration, pursue a career, and even one day, it will not be a surprise when Orthodox Jews are drafted, rather a new normal.