WOODMERE, Long Island -- Jacob Steinmetz's blazing fastball helped make him a baseball draft trailblazer.
The Long Island native is believed to be the first known practicing Orthodox Jewish player to be selected by a major league team, going in the third round - 77th overall - to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Steinmetz, from the hamlet of Woodmere, is a 17-year-old right-hander whose repertoire features a fastball that sits in the mid- to upper-90s and a knee-buckling curveball. His draft stock rose considerably while playing for the Elev8 Baseball Academy in Delray Beach, Florida, this year after previously competing for his high school team, The Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway.
"I was very excited, also having all my friends there and little bit of my family, definitely made it much better," he said.
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Steinmetz keeps the Sabbath and eats only Kosher food, but plays during the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays - although he walks to games during the Sabbath rather than taking transportation.
"My family's OK with it, there might be other families that wouldn't do it," Steinmetz said. "I'll just stay at a hotel nearby a field and walk to the games."
His family actually figured basketball would be his sport, since he is so tall, but by around age 14, it became clear to him that he loved the feeling of controlling a baseball game, right on the pitcher's mound.
Steinmetz said he feels close to God when he's on the mound and he hopes others in his community will see him as a trailblazer.
"See that's it's possible to stay to your religion and also play high level baseball at the same time," he said.
No practicing Orthodox Jewish player has made it to the big leagues.
The selections during the nine rounds Monday were made by teams on a conference call after the first night was a primetime event at Denver's Bellco Theater with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the picks.
Major League Baseball moved the draft from June to July, including it in the All-Star festivities.
Pittsburgh took Louisville slugging catcher Henry Davis with the No. 1 overall pick Sunday night and got him a potential future batterymate to lead off Day 2 by selecting New Jersey high school lefty Anthony Solometo at No. 37.
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(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Teen from Long Island is 1st known practicing Orthodox Jew drafted by MLB
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