With Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman being put on the Injured List due to the coronavirus, and Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dean Kremer being optioned to the alternative site due to his poor performance in the big leagues, it has not been a great year for Jews in the MLB, to say the least. However, there are some notable Jewish high school prospects who can give some hope to Jewish baseball fans around the world. Even more interesting is the fact that these two prospects are observant Jews who keep Kosher and observe Shabbos. With the MLB draft approaching in mid-July, two names to watch for on the draft board are Elie Kligman and Jacob Steinmetz.
Standing at six feet tall and weighing 185 pounds, Elie Kligman from Las Vegas, Nevada, is ranked the 14th best prospect in the state and is striving to become the first observant player in baseball. “My goal is to become the first Shabbos observant player in Major League Baseball,” Kligman told the New York Times. Kligman, who plays for Cimarron-Memorial High School as a shortstop and a pitcher, does not participate in his team’s Friday night or Saturday games or practices due to his Shabbos observance. Kligman has noted repeatedly that he would not compromise his religion to play professionally. “That day of Shabbos is for God. I’m not going to change that,” Kligman remarked. His high school coach, Mike Hubel, acknowledged how it might be hard for him to join a college program or play professionally due to his observance. “I think it’s going to be a challenge but then again, if you find a good Division I program with a good coach that’s willing to allow it, then it won’t be a problem. He’s a phenomenal teammate. He doesn’t talk with his mouth, he talks with his glove and his bat and he can back it up.” While he has not committed to a college yet, his father Mark, who is also a baseball agent, said that
multiple schools would love to have Elie play for their programs and are more than willing to accommodate for his needs.
Fordham University pitching commit Jacob Steinmetz is also looking to become the first observant Jew in the MLB. The Hebrew Academy of Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR for short) pitcher is an intriguing prospect due to his six foot six inch, 222 pound frame, and his ability to throw a fastball at over 90 miles per hour. When asked about playing on Shabbos and how that factored into his commitment to Fordham, Steinmetz said, “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 (Shabbos) 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.” The Woodmere native received multiple Division 1 offers and has talked to MLB scouts. Steinmetz’s family is also no stranger to the world of sports being observant Jews. His father, Elliot Steinmetz, is the head coach of the Yeshiva University men’s basketball team and was himself a player for the Macs when he went there.
It is definitely inspiring to see two young and upcoming prospects who despite their religious observance, have a real shot at making it to the pros. While there may be challenges along the way due to their observance, both of these athletes have potential to play professionally although even if they do not, they are definitely playing for a higher purpose.