The Jewish Sport Report: How Jacob Steinmetz is navigating minor league life as an Orthodox Jew - Jewish Telegraphic Agency (2024)

Hello! With July upon us, it’s almost time for the biggest sporting event of the year: the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

From fencing to soccer, from Israel to Australia, there are a number of Jewish athletes to watch in the Games — and we’ll have more on that next week. As we gear up for Paris, we turn to you, our readers, to ask: Which Jewish Olympians are you excited to watch this summer? Who’s on your radar? Drop us a note at sports@jta.org!

Frozen meals, Amazon Prime matzah orders and walking to the field on Shabbat: How Jacob Steinmetz is making it work as an Orthodox Jew in pro baseball

The Jewish Sport Report: How Jacob Steinmetz is navigating minor league life as an Orthodox Jew - Jewish Telegraphic Agency (1)

Jacob Steinmetz was promoted to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ High-A affiliate, the Hillsboro Hops, on June 18. (Courtesy of the Hillsboro Hops)

Three years ago next week, Jacob Steinmetz became the first Orthodox Jew to be drafted into MLB. Now in his fourth season in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor league system, he’s focused on baseball, not the history books.

“I am used to it, so it’s tough to put it into words now,” Steinmetz told me about being Orthodox in the minors. “At first it was definitely very cool, and I think it might have been a little, not pressure, but I kind of wasn’t taking it as seriously. But now I’ve kind of been able to just focus on baseball.”

It’s shown on the field. In 10 starts with Low-A this season, Steinmetz posted a 3.60 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 50 innings. He was promoted to High-A on June 18.

Navigating an observant Jewish lifestyle isn’t exactly easy in the minor leagues, where most low-level teams play, as Steinmetz put it, “in the middle of nowhere.” But the organization has arranged for kosher meals, a Shabbat-friendly pitching rotation and accessible hotel stays for Steinmetz. He said the D-Backs have made everything “a lot easier than I could have ever imagined.”

Check out our story on the 20-year-old trailblazer right here.

Halftime report

FROM MOTOWN TO THE MIDEAST. Speaking of history-making Orthodox athletes, basketball star Ryan Turell has signed with Ironi Ness Ziona in the Israeli Basketball Premier League, the country’s top tier of the sport. The former Yeshiva University standout spent the past two seasons with the Motor City Cruise, the G League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons.

IN MEMORIAM. The Israel Tennis and Education Center in Jerusalem dedicated a garden on its grounds Friday in honor of Maj. David Shakuri, a beloved and avid tennis player who was killed in February while serving in the Israel-Hamas war.

THE DOOR’S THAT WAY. Legendary Philadelphia sports broadcaster Howard Eskin has been banned from Phillies and 76ers games after an investigation found that he made an unwanted advance toward a female employee at Citizens Bank Park in May. Eskin, who Pete Rose nicknamed “The King,” is a member of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

GREEN MON-STAR. PWHL Boston goaltender Aerin Frankel, who performed brilliantly in the league’s first-ever postseason, was named to the Second All-Star Team. Frankel, whose dominance in net earned her the nickname “Green Monster” (an homage to Fenway Park’s iconic left field wall) posted a .929 save percentage in 18 regular season games and a next-level .953 save percentage in eight playoff games.

L’DOR VADOR. As Simone Biles prepares to anchor the U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the Paris Olympics, she said she owes her former teammate, Jewish Olympic legend Aly Raisman, an apology. At the 2016 Olympics, in which Raisman won a gold medal and two silvers, Biles, then 19, took to calling Raisman, then 22, “Grandma.” “So now, I definitely have to apologize to Aly for calling her grandma because, whew, I feel like I’m way older now,” said Biles, who’s now 27.

CALLING AN AUDIBLE. The new Netflix docuseries “America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders” chronicles the NFL’s team’s cheer squad, and it includes a heavy dose of Christianity. But as JTA’s partner site Hey Alma notes, the series also features an unexpected (and touching) Jewish moment. Read more here.

Jews in sports to watch this weekend (all times ET)

⚾️ IN BASEBALL…

Max Fried takes the mound for the Atlanta Braves as they host Garrett Stubbs and the Philadelphia Phillies tonight at 7:20 p.m. Rowdy Tellez — who hit .333 in June after a slow start to the season — and the Pittsburgh Pirates host Harrison Bader and the New York Mets in a four-game series this weekend. Kevin Pillar and the Los Angeles Angels face the Chicago Cubs in a three-game set, while reliever Jared Shuster and the Chicago White Sox play the Miami Marlins.

⚽️ IN SOCCER…

Tai Baribo and the Philadelphia Union host Daniel Edelman and the New York Red Bulls Saturday at 7:30 p.m. At the same time, Steve Birnbaum and D.C. United face Orlando City, while DeAndre Yedlin and F.C. Cincinnati play Yedlin’s former team, Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami. At 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Zac MacMath and Real Salt Lake host Atlanta United.

⛳️ IN GOLF…

Daniel Berger, Max Greyserman, David Lipsky and Ben Silverman are all competing in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois, this weekend.

🏎️ IN RACING…

Alon Day, the first and only Israeli NASCAR driver, will be racing in NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race on Saturday. Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll will be on the grid for the Formula One British Grand Prix Sunday at 10 a.m.

Best of the best

A roster of Jewish sports media icons including Jayson Stark, Jeff Passan, Andrea Kremer and others were honored at this week’s National Sports Media Association conference.

What a magical weekend the #64NSMAAWARDS was. Thank you to our state & national winners, our hall of famers, guests, members, volunteers, sponsors, @GrandoverResort and all who made this weekend possible. We couldn’t do what we do without you!

Looking forward to June 2025 ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/aWwlNcIFdK

— NSMA Sports Media (@NSMASportsMedia) July 2, 2024

The Jewish Sport Report: How Jacob Steinmetz is navigating minor league life as an Orthodox Jew - Jewish Telegraphic Agency (2024)
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