Israel's 19-year-old hurler shows chutzpah vs. D.R.'s heavy hitters

March 15th, 2023

MIAMI – Two years ago, Jacob Steinmetz made history. He became the first known practicing Orthodox Jewish player to get drafted by a Major League organization when the D-backs selected him with the seventh pick in the third round of the 2021 Draft.

Getting drafted is surely one of Steinmetz’s fondest memories of his career so far, but his performance for Team Israel against the Dominican Republic made a serious bid to top it.

At 19 years old, Steinmetz became the fourth-youngest pitcher to start a World Baseball Classic game when he took the mound for Israel on Tuesday. His reward? Facing a star-studded lineup from the Dominican Republic.

The teenaged right-hander didn’t seem fazed by the moment, however. After allowing a leadoff double to Juan Soto, he settled in and struck out Manny Machado on a slider that almost brought the star third baseman down to one knee. He went on to strike out 2022 World Series MVP Jeremy Peña in the second inning and finished his outing by punching out two-time All-Star Gary Sánchez.

"You saw the talent that he has tonight. It's a good experience for him," said Team Israel manager Ian Kinsler. "It's the loudest environment he is ever going to pitch in. He is a young age right now. He is still learning. So that's really going to help him moving forward."

Steinmetz allowed just one run on two hits and struck out three over 1 2/3 innings of work. His four-seam fastball was impressive, topping out at 95 mph. His curveball also helped him keep the Dominican lineup off balance. As he got back to the Israel dugout, Steinmetz was greeted by his teammates, and he couldn’t help flashing a huge smile.

"Stuff-wise, he really showed up," Kinsler said. "He was able to calm himself down, keep his composure and throw the ball well against an obviously All-Star lineup. I think it was a big confidence-builder for him." 

Young pitchers have had success in this year’s WBC. On Monday, 21-year-old Nicaraguan right-hander Duque Hebbert impressed the baseball world when he struck out three of the Dominican Republic’s heavy hitters, and he was rewarded with a Minor League deal with the Tigers. Even when things don’t go as planned for young pitchers, like in Mitch Bratt’s case for Canada, his teammates found a way to rally around him the following day.

It’s what the World Baseball Classic is all about.