At 6-foot-6, 224 pounds and armed with a 97 mph fastball, Jacob Steinmetz has rare gifts for a 17-year-old. The freebies earned him a scholarship to Fordham University and could net him a lot of money in this week’s MLB Draft.
But the lightning in his right arm is only part of what makes Steinmetz so unique. In the next few days, he could become a trailblazer – the first known Orthodox Jewish baseball player to be drafted.
“There’s a difference between being engaged, doing all that hard work and having that extra layer,” said summer coach Daniel Corona. “I don’t know if there will ever be another Jacob, as far as this whole process goes. He gave the example that anything is possible as long as you engage in several things at the same time and always believe in yourself, in your dreams, to achieve them.
Woodmere native LI, expected to be picked in Rounds 3-7, is an impressive pitcher prospect who took part in last week’s combine draft and recently completed practice sessions for the Dodgers. and the Angels. Baseball America ranks him No.181 in this draft class, while MLB.com has it 121 and Perfect Game lists it as 102.
Steinmetz observes the Sabbath and eats only kosher food. From sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, he cannot take a car, bus, train or plane. He can only walk. For baseball tournaments, he will travel in advance and arrange hotels within walking distance of the fields. Sometimes that can mean five mile hikes on the day he throws. He will perform on the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays.
“It has never been frustrating for me,” said Steinmetz. “It’s just something I’ve always done. It makes me who I am.
“It’s definitely done [my life] different, but in a good way.
Her father, Elliot, said they never discussed shortcuts. Fordham said he would work with Steinmetz to ensure that kosher eating or Sabbath observing is not affected. Professional teams the family spoke to expressed a similar sentiment. According to MLB draft guru Jim Callis, the teams who interviewed Steinmetz at the combine came away in awe of how well he articulated his plan to balance baseball and his faith, and why that’s so. important to him. Steinmetz declined to say if he would be willing to make any concessions if there was no other option at the professional level.
“It seems to be something that he has in his heart and something that he appreciates is part of him,” said Elliot, a real estate attorney who is also a men’s basketball coach at Division III Yeshiva University. “It’s part of the discipline and the commitment he has to baseball. I think a lot of it comes from its relationship to religion. The fact that he is able to interview the way he [does] or have a balance in his way of doing or understanding things the way he does, in large part because of his religious background.
The rise of Steinmetz is somewhat surprising. Steinmetz admitted when he joined Fordham in the fall of his junior year, he never planned to become an MLB prospect. It wasn’t until last spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that her life really started to change. With nothing else to occupy his time, he started lifting weights in his basement and adding important muscles to his lanky body. He joined Tread Athletics, an online pitcher development company, and gained 25 pounds in the span of a year.
In the first bullpen session after quarantine last summer, he hit 91 mph. In January, he was consistently in the 90s with no maximum effort. The ball came out effortlessly.
“He’s got some good things already and you feel he can improve,” Callis said. “He hasn’t finished maturing physically.
He played for his high school team, the Hebrew Academy of the Five Cities and Rockaway, as an underclass, but last season Steinmetz wanted to compete against the best competitors and made it to Delray Beach, in Florida. play for the Elev8 Baseball Academy. He found himself in front of 20 to 30 professional recruiters per game. Its speed continued to increase, until the mid-1990s.
SEC schools approached his coach, but Steinmetz was not interested. He had made a commitment to Fordham. If he went to college, it would be in the Bronx.
While living alone in Florida, Steinmetz was still able to juggle his responsibilities without the help of his parents. He would buy kosher food once a week, pray daily, and observe the Sabbath by staying close enough to the team’s grounds to walk around. He stayed enrolled in his high school on Zoom and earned a GPA of 3.80.
It has not always been easy to reconcile the two. When Steinmetz first started taking baseball seriously at the age of 11, traveling for the first time, he had no idea how it would work. There were a lot of long walks for the games. He’ll be leaving a few extra hours early so it doesn’t affect him on the mound. Most hotels don’t have kosher food so he has to pack more in a cooler bag.
He spoke to other Orthodox Jewish athletes about the challenges he faces and the obstacles that remain. One of them is Tamir Goodman, who was known years ago as “Jewish Jordan”. Goodman, considered one of the nation’s top high school basketball prospects in 2000, was scheduled to attend Maryland. But there was friction with the coaching staff over his refusal to play on the Sabbath day.
He ended up signing up with Towson, started most of his freshman year and, after alleging that new coach Michael Hunt assaulted him in December of his sophomore year, turned pro in Israel.
Steinmetz’s road was clear in comparison. He encountered no opposition.
“When I look back and hear stories about what Jacob is doing, it makes me so happy because it makes me feel like these ups and downs that I’ve been through [happened] so the next generation – Jacob’s generation – might be a little gentler on them. Maybe he doesn’t need to explain as much, or God forgive, he doesn’t have to go through some of the things that I’ve been through, “Goodman said, adding,” It’s very exciting. for the Jewish community.
Corona recalled a game several years ago when Steinmetz pitched his team to a quarterfinal victory. Steinmetz and his father were walking back to the hotel three miles away in the sweltering Florida heat when the team bus approached them. He stopped and his teammates ran.
“I have a video of the team, 11 and 12 year olds hopping off the bus and walking three miles with him to the hotel, making him feel welcome,” Corona said. “Like, ‘Dude, you just started a hell of a match, we understand what you’re going through. We want to be a part of it.”
In Woodmere, Steinmetz is a role model for young Orthodox Jewish children. He will be approached frequently, asked for photos, autographs and advice. Steinmetz doesn’t seek attention, he doesn’t broadcast his faith. But he may not have a choice. He quickly becomes an Orthodox Jewish icon, an example that anything is possible. Soon he could make history.
“This is a great opportunity for him to continue to grow as a leader and to continue to show people that you can break down some walls, do some things and not necessarily sacrifice your experience for that,” said Elliot. “I think he’s the right kid for that, just because he’s got a good head on his shoulders and he’s mentally strong. Hopefully he is able to be a light for everyone.