While observing the Sabbath, it was common for Woodmere’s Jacob Steinmetz to walk to his baseball games — even at a young age.
From sundown Friday evening until the sunset on Saturday, Steinmetz, a practicing Orthodox Jewish ballplayer, cannot ride on a bus, in a train or a car or fly in a plane. His only mode of transportation is to walk.
"I’ve walked five miles to games at times as I observe the Sabbath," Steinmetz said. "There is discipline to it. There is faith. And I believe in what I do. It’s just something I’ve always done. It makes me who I am."
Steinmetz, a 6-5, 220-pound righthanded pitcher for the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway, became Long Island’s top player selected in Major League Baseball’s 2021 amateur baseball draft.
The 17-year-old senior with a 97-mph fastball, was selected with the sixth pick of the third round, the 77th pick overall, by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He is believed to be a trailblazer of sorts as the first known Orthodox Jewish baseball player to be drafted. His selection comes with a slot value of $805,600.00.
"I was watching the draft on MLB with my friends," Steinmetz said. "It’s extremely exciting. The Diamondbacks let me know a few picks earlier that my name would be called."
Steinmetz will have to decide between playing for Fordham University or starting his professional career in Arizona.
"These are the days we dream about," Steinmetz said. "This is what we work and pray for — the opportunity."
The pandemic cost Steinmetz and the entire Class of 2021 the pivotal spring season of baseball in his junior year of high school. Sports were canceled and his recruitment year was gone. Rather than toil in disappointment, he got to work.
He remained enrolled at HAFTR, online learning over Zoom, and graduated with a 3.8 GPA. The option for online learning opened the door for him to attend the Elev8 Baseball Academy in Delray Beach, Fla., this spring and showcase his pitching skills.
As his velocity increased, the total number of professional scouts grew to more than 25 per start — and there were six of them.
"The pandemic gave me a lot of free time to train and put on good weight and refine my pitching mechanics," he said. "And as I grew, my velocity increased and there was plenty of attention over the summer with the Body Armor Titans and this spring at Elev8. My pitching coach Bobby DeMichael really helped me a bunch."
Steinmetz commands a three-pitch repertoire, including an overpowering two-seam fastball that sits between 95-97 mph, a 12-to-6 curveball and a circle change.
"When Jacob and I started working together, he was already an extremely talented pitcher," DeMichael said. "He knew there was potential for more and dedicated himself during the offseason to giving himself every chance he could to get this opportunity. He learned how to move better, going through his offseason throwing program and working on Rapsodo [pitcher training system] in his bullpens to learn more about his stuff and how to execute his pitches. Our biggest goal was cleaning up the way he moved in his delivery and maximizing his natural ability. He’s accomplished everything he set out for, so far. Now our goals change as his situation changes and I’m extremely proud of him and happy for him and his family."