Breaking Barriers: Jacob Steinmetz’s Journey as an Orthodox Jew in MLB
In a historic moment, Jacob Steinmetz became the first Orthodox Jew to be drafted by an MLB organization – the Arizona Diamondbacks. During the course of selections, questions arose surrounding whether Steinmetz’s adherence to Orthodox Judaism would be able to coexist with the requirements of professional baseball. Relief rushed over Steinmetz as it was made clear by Assistant General Manager of the Diamondbacks, Amiel Sawdaye, growing up in a Jewish community himself, that all support required would be made available. Now, two years later, Steinmetz plays for the low Class A Visalia Rawhide in California, where being an Orthodox Jew in the California League comes with its own hurdles and complications.
Commitment to Faith and Baseball
Over Shabbat, Steinmetz will not travel to the ballpark by motor vehicle but instead opts to walk the several-mile journey there and back. Often before and after games, food is provided where meals are rigorously prepared according to Kosher laws for him. None of these experiences are foreign, as the balance between his faith and baseball has occurred since childhood. Throughout his tenure in Little League, he and his family would often have hotel arrangements that made it easier to walk to a tournament venue, bringing along their cooler filled with readily prepared Kosher meals. Logistics were sometimes a challenge, but Steinmetz and his family always made it work.
Transition to Professional League
A smooth transition to the professional league was of utmost importance to the Diamondbacks. Food was a challenge, where a strict kosher diet was adhered to by Steinmetz. Often, Kitchen18 was the go-to place in Arizona, but the kosher food scene in The California League proved to be minimal. In this case, Los Angeles company Western Kosher delivered meals once a week. A bicycle was also provided to him in order to travel to the ballpark, and with hotels, it is ensured that accommodation is in walkable distance or alternatives provided.
Observing the Sabbath
Steinmetz made a choice, in agreement with his family, that on the Sabbath, he would participate in anything Baseball related. This has resulted in the occasional complaint from the Orthodox community stemming from the disagreement that playing constitutes as working, an act that is prohibited on the Sabbath. But he goes on to explain that “it’s to everyone’s interpretation.”
Jacob Steinmetz has proved that Orthodox Judaism and playing Baseball do not clash. He observes a Kosher diet and observes the Sabbath, all while facing the challenges of the minor leagues. He hopes that Orthodox kids can see him and realize that it’s possible.