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The Jewish Sport Report: How Jacob Steinmetz navigates minor league life as an Orthodox Jew

Hello! July is just around the corner and with it 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 keep an eye on at the Games – and we’ll have more on that next week. As we prepare for Paris, we’re turning to you, our readers, and asking: Which Jewish Olympians are you dying to see this summer? Who’s on your radar? Drop us a line at [email protected]!

Frozen meals, ordering matzo from Amazon Prime and going to the field on Shabbat: How Jacob Steinmetz makes it as an Orthodox Jew in professional baseball

Jacob Steinmetz

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

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

“I’m used to it, so it’s hard to put it into words now,” Steinmetz told me of his orthodox behavior in the minor leagues. “It was definitely very cool at first, and I think it was maybe a little bit, no pressure, but I kind of didn’t take it that seriously. But now I can kind of just focus on baseball.”

That shows on the field. In 10 starts in 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.

Living an observant Jewish lifestyle isn’t easy in the minor leagues, where most minor league teams play “in the middle of nowhere.” Steinmetz described it this way: “Most minor league teams play in the middle of nowhere.” But the organization has arranged kosher meals, a Shabbat-friendly pitching lineup and accessible hotel accommodations for Steinmetz. He said the D-backs have made everything “a lot easier than I could have ever imagined.”

Read our story about the 20-year-old pioneer here.

Half-time report

FROM MOTOWN TO THE MIDDLE EAST. Speaking of historic Orthodox athletes, basketball star Ryan Turell has signed with Ironi Ness Ziona in the Israeli Basketball Premier League, the country’s top division. The former Yeshiva University star spent the last two seasons with Motor City Cruise, the G-League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons.

IN MEMORY. The Israel Tennis and Education Center in Jerusalem inaugurated a garden on its premises in honor of Maj. David Shakuria popular and enthusiastic tennis player who was killed in February while serving in the war between Israel and Hamas.

The door is over there. Legendary sports reporter from Philadelphia Howard Eskin was banned from Phillies and 76ers games after an investigation found he made unwanted advances to a female staff member at Citizens Bank Park in May. Eskin, nicknamed “The King” by Pete Rose, is a member of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

GREEN MON-STAR. PWHL Boston Goalkeeper Aerin Frankelwho performed brilliantly in the league’s first-ever postseason, was named to the second All-Star team. Frankel, whose dominance in goal earned her the nickname “Green Monster” (a tribute to Fenway Park’s iconic left outfield wall), posted a .929 save percentage in 18 regular-season games and an above-average .953 save percentage in eight playoff games.

L’DOR VADOR. As Simone Biles prepares to lead the U.S. gymnastics team at the Paris Olympics, she says she owes a debt of gratitude to her former teammate, a Jewish Olympic legend. Aly Raismanan apology. At the 2016 Olympics, where Raisman won a gold medal and two silver medals, Biles, then 19, began calling Raisman, then 22, “Grandma.” “Now I definitely have to apologize to Aly for calling her Grandma, because, phew, I feel a lot older now,” said Biles, now 27.

AN AUDIBLE CALL. The new Netflix docuseries “America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders” chronicles the NFL team’s cheerleaders and includes a healthy dose of Christianity. But as JTA 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 stands on the hill for the Atlanta Braves as they Garrett Stubbs and the Philadelphia Phillies tonight at 7:20 p.m. Rowdy Tellez — who hit a .333 batting average in June after a slow start to the season — and the Pittsburgh Pirates 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 Relief Jared Shuster and the Chicago White Sox play against the Miami Marlins.

⚽️ IN FOOTBALL …

Tai Baribo and the host Philadelphia Union Daniel Edelman and the New York Red Bulls Saturday at 19:30 At the same time, Steve Birnbaum and DC United face Orlando City, while DeAndre Yedlin and FC Cincinnati play against Yedlin’s former team, Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami. On Saturday at 9:30 p.m., Zac MacMath and Real Salt Lake hosts Atlanta United.

⛳️ PLAYING GOLF…

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

🏎️ IN RACING…

Alon Daythe first and only Israeli NASCAR driver, will compete in the NASCAR Chicago Street Race on Saturday. Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll will start at the British Formula 1 Grand Prix on Sunday at 10am

Best of the best

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