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Long Island teen with 90+ mph fastball is the first known Orthodox Jewish player drafted in Major League Baseball

By David Williams, CNN

Right handed pitcher Jacob Steinmetz has a fastball in the 90-94 mph range, a wicked curve ball and a deeply-held religious faith.

The Arizona Diamondbacks selected the 17-year-old on Monday in the third round with the 77th pick and say he’s the first known Orthodox Jewish player to ever be drafted by a Major League baseball team.

“I think just because of the fact that no one’s ever done it, really, there’s no one for younger kids to look at and see that it was possible,” he said. “With me being the first, hopefully the younger kids will see that and they won’t give up and think ‘I’m an Orthodox Jew, I can’t do that.'”

The Woodmere, New York, native was surrounded by friends and family when he saw his name on TV and got a call from the team.

“It was always a dream, but it wasn’t a very realistic dream until about a year, a year-and-a-half ago,” Steinmetz said. “I just got a lot better and was throwing a lot harder and I was putting a lot more work in.”

He also worked out a lot during the pandemic and was able to add about 25 pounds to his 6’5″ frame.

Steinmetz plays baseball on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, but would walk — sometimes for miles — on those days because he can’t ride in cars or buses. He also keeps a Kosher diet and would bring his own food if he didn’t think he could find what he needed.

Steinmetz said teams talked with him about balancing his religion and the game ahead of the draft.

“They were all just supportive of it and they thought it was a pretty cool idea, actually, and they all thought it would work out,” Steinmetz said.

In a video posted on, Diamondbacks scouting director Deric Ladnier said Steinmetz has a lot of potential, with a “big arm” and one of the better curve balls he’d seen in the draft.

“As an organization, we’ll have to work with his schedule to make sure he can maintain his schedule with his religion,” Ladnier said.

Steinmetz wasn’t the only Orthodox Jewish player taken in this year’s draft.

The Washington Nationals selected Elie Kligman, a catcher out of Las Vegas, with the 593rd pick. Kligman plays for Israel’s national team, which tweeted video of him getting the news on the team bus.

Steinmetz said he got in touch with Kligman after reading about him in an article.

“I think that he thought, and I thought separately that we were the only ones to do it at this high level,” Steinmetz said.

Steinmetz had committed to play college baseball at Fordham University, but has decided to sign with the Diamondbacks.

He reports to the team on Monday — which happens to be his 18th birthday.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jacob Lev contributed to this report.

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