Baseball (illustration)
Baseball (illustration)iStock

Few Jews have succeeded in the world of professional sports. Among Orthodox Jews, the number is nearly zero, due to the requirement to play on Shabbat. One teenager from Nevada is hoping to change that,

Elie Kligman, a high school senior from Las Vegas, is hoping to become the first Orthodox Major League Baseball player, reported.

“My dream has always been to be a Major Leaguer. I never thought of anything else—baseball has always been what I’ve wanted to do," Kligman said.

Kligman, 18, has played baseball his entire life as an infielder and a pitcher, and is considered one of the best players in the state of Nevada. He was one of 175 high-schoolers who took part in the Area Code Baseball Games, which is viewed by MLB scouts.

Kligman refuses to compromise on his religious observance, even if it means missing games. “I have the mindset of, ‘This is what I am doing for Judaism, and this is what I am doing for baseball.’ Once the sun goes down on Friday night, it’s not a debate for me, [keeping Shabbat] is just what I am doing,” he said. “When you are a proud Jew, people respect when I tell them I’m not going to play on Friday night and Saturday.”

Rabbi Shea Harlig, the director of the Chabad of Southern Nevada, praised Kligman's ability to balance Judaism and baseball without compromising his beliefs. "When there is a conflict, his Yiddishkeit takes precedence."

Kligman is currently waiting to find out where he will be attending college and if he will be the first Orthodox Jew to play baseball at a Division 1 school, a move which would bring him one step closer to the majors.

“People always ask me what I’m going to do in college,” he said. “The answer has always been I’m not playing on Shabbat. It’s for G‑d, and I’m not changing that.”

Kligman would not be the first Jewish baseball player to refuse to play a game due to his religion. Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, famously refused to pitch during the first game of the 1965 World Series because the game fell out on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. A generation earlier, another Jewish great, Hank Greenberg, also refused the play on Yom Kippur during the 1934 World Series.

Greenberg's decision inspired a poem titled "Speaking of Greenberg," which ends with the lines: “Said Murphy to Mulrooney ‘We shall lose the game today!/ We shall miss him in the infield and shall miss him at the bat,/ But he’s true to his religion – and I honor him for that!’”

If he makes it into the major leagues, Kligman would be the first Jewish player to refuse to play on Friday nights and Saturdays.