Jacob Steinmetz’s roots and love of sports are firmly embedded in the New York area. Jacob is the son of Elliot and Sima Steinmetz, longtime Woodmere residents. His father was once a basketball player at Yeshiva University, and recently brought its basketball program to astounding successes as the coach of the YU Maccabees. Jacob’s grandparents, Michael and Patti Steinmetz, also of Woodmere, are thrilled to see their grandson become the first known observant Orthodox player to be picked in a Major League Baseball draft.

Jacob is a prodigy of HAFTR, where he previously competed on the yeshivah’s high school team. This past year, Jacob raised his draft stock considerably while playing for the Elev8 Baseball Academy in Delray Beach, Florida.

“We are proud of Jacob maintaining his religious practices while working to achieve his dream of playing Major League Baseball,” said Jacob’s grandparents Howie and Miriam Shatz, longtime members of the Young Israel of Hillcrest, exclusively to the Queens Jewish Link following the exciting announcement.

“Jacob is a fine young man. He is unselfish and kind. He has many friends,” related Rabbi Hershel Billet, Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Woodmere, where the Steinmetzes have always been members. The QJL spoke with the rabbi on a quest to learn more about Jacob’s journey and to understand those closest to him.

“His parents Elliot and Sima were both raised in the best of Orthodox Jewish families. The Steinmetz/Shatz clans have been among the strong and influential religious Zionist families in their respective communities. They attend daily minyanim, study Torah daily, and are active in their respective communities. I say this with firsthand experience regarding Patti and Michael Steinmetz. Elliot, his dad, has made the YU Maccabee Basketball team into first-class winners on and off the court. Truly a kiddush Hashem. None of this could happen without Sima’s support,” continued Rabbi Billet.

“I hope and pray that Jacob will have the strength and fortitude to maintain his family’s strong Jewish commitment. The news of his MLB draft has created quite a stir in our community and beyond,” offered the rabbi in a heartfelt brachah to the young player as he enters a new world filled with complexities. “Jacob will face many challenges. We all hope and pray that by remaining who he has been brought up to be and being true to the values of his tradition, he will make a kiddush Hashem, as well.”

What astounds many is how early Jacob was picked. Chosen in the third round, 77th overall, is no easy feat. To this, Rabbi Billet proposed a very inspiring thought. “He was drafted number 77. Seventy-seven is ayin-zayin in Hebrew. It means strength,” explained the rabbi as he concluded with a final prayer. “Hashem should bless Jacob with the strength that he will need.”

By Shabsie Saphirstein