NY Pitcher Becomes 1st Known Drafted Practicing Orthodox Jew

Photo courtesy the Steinmetz family

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Jacob Steinmetz’s blazing fastball helped make him a baseball draft trailblazer.

The New York native is believed to be the first known practicing Orthodox Jewish player to be selected by a major league team, going in the third round — 77th overall — to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Steinmetz, from the Long Island hamlet of Woodmere, is a 17-year-old right-hander whose repertoire features a fastball that sits in the mid- to upper-90s and a knee-buckling curveball. His draft stock rose considerably while playing for the Elev8 Baseball Academy in Delray Beach, Florida, this year after previously competing for his high school team, The Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway.

Steinmetz recently told the New York Post he keeps the Sabbath and eats only Kosher food, but plays during the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays — although he walks to games during the Sabbath rather than taking transportation. No practicing Orthodox Jewish player has made it to the big leagues.

Photo courtesy the Steinmetz family

The selections during the nine rounds Monday were made by teams on a conference call after the first night was a primetime event at Denver’s Bellco Theater with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the picks. Major League Baseball moved the draft from June to July, including it in the All-Star festivities.

Pittsburgh took Louisville slugging catcher Henry Davis with the No. 1 overall pick Sunday night and got him a potential future batterymate to lead off Day 2 by selecting New Jersey high school lefty Anthony Solometo at No. 37.

The Pirates picked athletic Pennsylvania high school outfielder Lonnie White Jr., who signed a letter of intent to play both baseball and football at Penn State, in the competitive balance round between the second and third rounds. Pittsburgh went back to pitching in the third round, taking Georgia high school pitcher and shortstop Bubba Chandler — who has a scholarship offer from Clemson to play quarterback.

The Nationals used their 10th-round pick on Cal infielder Darren Baker, the son of former Washington and current Houston manager Dusty Baker. Darren Baker was famously swooped away from home plate by Giants player J.T. Snow during the 2002 World Series, when the 3-year-old Baker was a bat boy.

Photo courtesy the Steinmetz family

Arkansas closer Kevin Kopps, the Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year and a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, was taken by San Diego in the third round. The 24-year-old right-hander was a sixth-year senior after redshirting as a freshman and missing a year after having Tommy John surgery, but was dominant this season with a Division I-leading 0.90 ERA while winning 12 games and saving 11.

Houston took Nevada high school outfielder Tyler Whitaker with its first pick of the draft, which didn’t come until the third round for the second straight year as punishment for the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

Photo courtesy the Steinmetz family

Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels have taken exclusively pitchers through 10 rounds, while the Cleveland Indians grabbed pitchers with 10 of their 11 picks and the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays grabbed nine pitchers through 10 rounds.

The Baltimore Orioles, meanwhile, selected just one pitcher among their first 11 picks.

The draft will be completed Tuesday with rounds 11 through 20 conducted via a conference call with teams.



  1. Now we need a halachic analysis delving into the subject of playing baseball on Shabbos. Until then, this boy shouldn’t be considered a practicing orthodox Jew.

  2. I was hoping YWN would avoid this story but, here we go. Judges of other Jews, please form an orderly line to the right and when your turn arrives sling the mud so that it taints as many other Jews as possible.

  3. If he goes to work on Shabbos (his job, not an amateur extra-curricular activity, which is the basis of a heter often used by those who want to play sports on Shabbos), he wouldn’t really qualify as “Orthodox”. If he doesn’t play Shabbos, he’ll miss about a third of his games (teams typically play Friday night and Saturday afternoon).

    It also should be remembered that most minor league teams are in areas with no Jewish community, and that if he is unavailable two days a week, a team would have considerable difficulty giving his roster slot to another player for those days, forcing them to play a third of their games shorthanded.

  4. …”Steinmetz recently told the New York Post he keeps the Sabbath and eats only Kosher food, but plays during the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays…” But he says he does walk to games.

  5. I don’t judge anyone else… and for him this is amazing. Also amazing to see someone keep to what they can to this level despite this success. However, this is not something I would hope to increase. Not something I would tout too much either… as I am not looking for Frum kids to dream of reaching this stage.

  6. A well-learned Posek, looking to be Mekil for a pitcher who wanted to be Chozer b’Yeshuvah and be Shomer Shabbos, was unable to Matir it since digging with one’s spikes in to the mound to purchase a push-off point is Chofer, an Isur d’Oraisa.