Photo Credit: Twitter
Jacob Steinmetz delivering a pitch in the World Baseball Classic.

The 2023 baseball season is underway and I find myself following the goings-on of several players, but one scene from the World Baseball Championship game last month plays over and over in my mind.

Shohei Otani and Mike Trout are teammates and friends on the Los Angeles Angels, but played for different teams during the WBC. Otani played for his native country Japan while Trout starred for the USA team. Japan and the American players made it to the final championship game.


With Japan leading 3-2 in the ninth inning and a television audience of an estimated 65 million people, Otani faced Trout and the great slugging center fielder of the Angels struck out and both players returned to finish spring training with the Angels and started the season together. This is an important year for Otani as he is a free agent after this season and could become the first player to earn $50 million per season.

The 28-year-old Otani, who turns 29 on July 5, is the most important player in the game. Just look at his stats last season. As a pitcher he won 15 games while losing nine and posted a low earned run average of only 2.33 while recording a fastball that was over 101 miles per hour. The 6-foot-4-inch righthander also starred in the batter’s box with a respectable .273 batting average, 34 home runs and 95 runs batted in. With Otani a team gets a top-notch starting pitcher and a great bat in the lineup.

On the subject of the World Baseball Teams, we had a chance to see Jacob Steinmetz pitch for Team Israel against several major league all-star players representing the Dominican Republic. The game was carried by the Fox sports network and announcers Dave Flemming and Yonder Alonso had good things to say as the game unfolded about the pitching future of the 19-year-old selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks almost two years ago in the third round of the 2021 Major League Draft. “Steinmetz was the first orthodox Jew to be drafted by a major league organization in history,” Flemming told viewers.

Steinmetz posted unimpressive numbers last season, his first full season in organized baseball. Very low in the ladder of the Arizona organization in the Arizona Complex League, the 6-foot-5 Steinmetz who only turned 19 last July, appeared in eleven games and started seven of them. His won-lost record was a poor 0 and 7, and his earned run average was a high 7.88. In 24 innings he walked 20 batters but he struck out an impressive 27 batters.

But the scouting reports on the fine young man from Woodmere, N.Y. pretty much agreed that he had a better than average curve ball and has a fast ball close to 94 miles per hour and the potential to pitch in the major leagues. With two strikes on him, Juan Soto, one of the best hitters in the major leagues, led off against Steinmetz for the Dominicans and blooped a double to short left field. Julio Rodriguez grounded to first base, moving Soto to third. Manny Machado struck out swinging on a good slider. “That’s pretty impressive,” Flemming announced, “Jacob Steinmetz, only 19, struck out one of the best batters in the world.”

Another one of the best batters in the world, Rafael Devers, followed and walked on four pitches. Elroy Jiminez of the White Sox singled to left, scoring Soto. “A mistake up in the zone,” Flemming said of the pitch. Kertel Marte grounded to the first baseman who tossed the ball to Steinmetz as he ran to beat the runner to first base.

Steinmetz started the second inning by striking out Jeremy Pena swinging on a good slider. Then he walked Jeimer Candelario on four pitches and struck out Gary Sanchez on a called strike. Team Israel manager Ian Kinsler went to the mound and told Steinmetz, “good job,” and opted to give his young pitcher a chance to rest in the dugout and reflect.

Announcer Dave Flemming reflected on Steinmetz’s performance. “It wasn’t perfect,” Flemming said, “he was a little wild with a couple of walks. It was a big league lineup full of all-stars. This (the Dominican team) was an all-star team.”

Steinmetz pitched 1.2 innings, allowed two hits, one run and struck out three while walking two. He threw 38 pitches 19 of which were strikes. Steinmetz, who will turn 20 in July, needs to work on his control as he moves up the minor league ladder of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The morning after the game I went to the Aitz Chaim shul in West Palm Beach and the topic of conversation after davening – as it was in many shuls around the country that morning–was Jacob Steinmetz and his performance on the mound. Eventually, the conversation turned–as it does in most orthodox shuls – to his brand of orthodoxy as he pitches on Shabbos, but walks to the game. It’s his decision, but it’s not good enough for a shidduch with any of my very eligible granddaughters who like baseball.

Jacob should make the majors within a couple of years and be extremely popular with the Jewish community. But I think if he’ll follow my advice, he could be super popular with baseball fans Jews and non-Jews and have a bigger fan base and do lots of guesting on the network nighttime talk shows.

He probably doesn’t want advice even from an old guy who has a World Series ring and interviewed numerous heroes of yesterday in press boxes, dugouts and clubhouses, but here it is anyway. Don’t pitch at all on Shabbos, Jacob. Here’s what I’d like to see you do. Today’s stadiums – even in the minor leagues – have several luxury boxes and you can stay in one for Shabbos. Pitch–if you’re called on – until a few minutes up to Shabbos and then make your way to a luxury box assigned for you for Shabbos well stocked with kosher food, a siddur and Chumash, one of my books and a comfortable bed. You’ll have the whole stadium to roam around in between games.

As soon as Shabbos ends make your way to the dugout or bullpen. The New York teams will do everything in their power to trade for you. Imagine the play-by-play broadcasters telling the fans that the Jewish Sabbath will be over at such and such time and Steinmetz will be back with the team a few minutes later. The message board will also publicize it. Think of the extra income the fame would bring and how much more you could help charities and what a great Kiddush Hashem you’ll make.

After all, baseball is Hashem’s favorite sport as the Torah begins with a bais and ends over 304,000 letters later with a lamed, the first and last letter for baseball.


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Author, columnist, Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years and interviewed many legends of the game before accepting a front office position with the Detroit Tigers where he became the first orthodox Jew to earn a World Series ring (1984).