Many Jewish fathers play catch with their sons in their backyards dreaming that their children could make it to Major League Baseball. For Elie Kligman, and his father Marc, the dream is a lot closer to reality.
Whether he opts to go to a college in the Atlantic Coast Conference or chooses to sign with the Washington Nationals, who selected him in the 20th round in the recent MLB draft, he will have a special request that they will have to accept. It won’t be a fancy jet or a bigger locker.
Kligman, who is shomer Shabbat, said he will not play on Sabbos and whatever team he goes to will have to adjust their schedule to accommodate him. This has taken place before at the collegiate level when Tamir Goodman, dubbed “The Jewish Jordan,” got scheduling changes for him at the University of Maryland.
Kligman said no amount of money or fame would change his mind.
“It’s important for me because that’s not the way G-d intended me to use the day,” he told The Jewish Press by phone. “There are obviously restrictions on the Sabbath. For me, that’s something that I see as very important and I want do in my life.”
The switch hitter, who batted .400 his senior year and also hurled a no-hitter in his varsity career, was drafted as a catcher and he said he is ultimately not sure what position he will end up playing.
He said he attended Chabad of Summerlin in Desert Shores Nevada, and enjoyed studying Chumash with Rashi. He was the ace of the staff at Cimarron-Memorial High School and was home schooled. He said everyone was friendly, and while his curveball is sometimes his strikeout pitch as, his three pitches are his fastball, clocked at about 90 miles-per-hour, a curveball and changeup.
He recently practiced with Team Israel, the squad that is headed to the Olympics. He said it was a thrill to play with the players as well as former major leaguers like Ian Kinsler, formerly of the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers. (Kinsler had 1,999 hits in his career.)
“It’s different when you play with big leaguers: you can tell they’re a lot better than everyone else,” he said.
One of his favorite players is the late Roy Halladay, who pitched for the Blue Jays and the Phillies.
Kligman, who is 6’1 and about 185 pounds, said genetics definitely help (his father Marc played baseball at Johns Hopkins and his brother Ari, 16, is a talented pitcher at the same high school) – but he said in the nature vs. nurture argument, “It’s the hard work that separates people.”
Don’t ask about a future Mrs. Kligman right now. “I don’t have much of a dating life,” the 18-year-old said. “I don’t know if (getting drafted) is gonna help or not. I haven’t thought about it.”
Besides playing baseball at Johns Hopkins, his father Marc is an agent for baseball players, a coach and also a criminal defense attorney.
He said he was happy to hear what fathers dream to hear and is excited to see what will happen.
“It feels amazing, but of course we’ve got to discuss matters with the Nationals and see if we’re able to come to terms,” Marc Kligman said. We’re very excited to have that opportunity.”
The 51-year-old said that while some fathers may have unrealistic expectations, he had the expertise to know what it took from being around major leaguers and being a catcher and outfielder in college. He also does scouting as part of his job.
“I knew he was good and heard from scouts about what he could do,” the senior Kligman said. “He’s always risen to the occasion every where he’s played. He’s played with kids that went in the first round and he did fine.”
Kligman joined Jacob Steinmetz, a Long Island pitcher who is also observant and was drafted in the third round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. If both players were to make the big leagues they are believed to be the second and third observant players to play in the pros – after shortstop Morrie Arnovich who played in the 1930s and ’40s, decades before the first MLB draft in 1965, and was a shortstop for the Phillies and Reds.
In front of 60 scouting directors, Kligman was able to barrel up and hit 90 mile-per-hour fastballs and play defense in the infield with ease, his father said, adding there was another way he could tell his son was ready for the big lights:
“In the last couple of years, when we would play catch, when the ball came in my hand it would hurt,” Marc Kligman said. “I would have to really focus to catch the ball in the webbing.”