Longing for a Shot at the Majors, but Sitting Out the Sabbath

Elie Kligman is a switch-hitter with energy. He has pitched no-hitters, immaculate innings and might snatch the ball with cool precision from any spot in the infield. He is a star in each means at Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas, with desires of reaching even larger heights.

He can be shomer Shabbat, that means he observes the strict guidelines of the Jewish sabbath and can’t — and won’t — play ball on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons earlier than the solar goes down.

Based on expertise and want, Kligman is sweet sufficient to realistically entertain his dream of enjoying Major League Baseball, or at least high degree faculty ball. But he is aware of his devotion to his religion may shatter that dream earlier than it begins, and he is able to settle for that.

And even when a huge league staff have been to supply Kligman a $10 million signing bonus, with the promise that he can be enjoying in entrance of 40,000 folks later this summer time — offered he agrees to play on the sabbath — he insists he would stand agency in his conviction.

“No,” Kligman mentioned when requested if he could possibly be enticed to interrupt his spiritual obligations. “That day of Shabbas is for God. I’m not going to change that.”

Many Jewish gamers have declined to play on sure spiritual holidays by the many years, primarily on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana. One of the most notable situations got here when Sandy Koufax, the Hall of Fame left-hander, selected not pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series as a result of it fell on Yom Kippur. (His substitute, Don Drysdale, received shelled, and when Manager Walter Alston eliminated him in the third inning, Drysdale mentioned, “I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too.”)

But lacking the occasional recreation in October is nothing in comparison with sitting out each Friday evening and Saturday afternoon recreation. The idea may show significantly tough in faculty, the place many packages play doubleheaders on these days. It will likely be a problem, but Kligman and his household have been working by the identical obstacles ever since Elie and his youthful brother Ari, 16, have been small boys.

Observant Jews might not work throughout a 25-hour interval from sunset on Friday till darkish on Saturday, nor might they use electrical energy or tie knots, equivalent to the ones discovered on baseball spikes. They might not tear clothes, like the uniform pants which will be shorn when a participant slides into second base, and so they might not flip the soil, which is technically what occurs at any time when spikes rip into grass or the infield dust. Most of all, it’s a day meant to be set aside for non secular reflection.

For Kligman, it’s nonnegotiable. As a lot as he loves baseball, he is not going to forsake his spiritual beliefs, even when it may finally thwart the whole lot he has been working towards. If there’s a means round the battle, it largely will depend on whether or not he’s ok — some in baseball imagine he could possibly be — wherein case, schools and later main league groups, would possibly make the concessions needed to permit him to remain true to himself and his faith, and nonetheless play ball.

He is just 18, with fairly a lengthy approach to go, but Kligman has already launched into a journey to make baseball historical past.

“My goal is to become the first Shabbas observant player in Major League Baseball,” he mentioned.

One benefit he has is his father, Marc Kligman, a former catcher and outfielder with a self-described “nondescript career” at Johns Hopkins University. A lawyer, Marc Kligman can be a licensed baseball agent, and he understands the panorama that prospects should navigate with a view to fulfill their desires. But his son’s quest is totally different from theirs.

Over the years, Marc Kligman has needed to petition his sons’ little leagues, pony leagues, journey packages, excessive colleges and all-star scouting occasions to make scheduling lodging so his boys would be capable of play as many video games as potential. He mentioned these efforts have typically been profitable, as most individuals have tried to assist.

Still, there have been missed video games and exhausting discussions.

The first time it occurred, when Elie was eight, he sat out a Saturday playoff recreation. During a second alone together with his son, Marc requested Elie how he was doing. Elie mentioned he felt omitted, but that Shabbas was extra vital.

“I was blown away,” Marc Kligman mentioned. “Here’s a kid who won’t put God second. But he believes that the two can coexist. He’s got six days of the week to do everything he can to be a baseball player, and if colleges and Major League Baseball aren’t inclined to make any changes, then we’ll take what we can get.”

The Kligmans say there are a handful of school coaches — the household is not going to establish them, but — who’re conscious of Elie’s convictions and nonetheless need him to play for their groups.

Elie is 6-foot, about 185 kilos and is ranked by Prep Baseball Report as the No. 14 prospect in Nevada, and he carried out effectively at a latest scouting occasion hosted by the publication, which had 65 professional scouts in attendance. Brett Harrison, who scouts Nevada for the report and has seen Kligman play many instances, mentioned that he has the instruments and the baseball information to make an affect at a Power 5 faculty program inside a yr or two.

“I think with his ability to pitch and play several positions well, he will add inherent value wherever he ends up going,” Harrison mentioned.

Kligman’s present coach is Mike Hubel, a former minor league participant, who has been teaching for 25 years, the final 22 at Cimarron-Memorial. Many of his gamers have superior to play at main faculty packages and several other have made it to the majors. He says Elie Kligman has the expertise and the drive to change into a good professional, but is unsure how schools {and professional} groups — and the leagues they play in — will view his spiritual restrictions, which Hubel acknowledged will be tough to barter at instances, even for a highschool staff that’s prepared to accommodate them.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge,” Hubel mentioned, “but then again, if you find a good Division I program with a good coach that’s willing to allow it, then it won’t be a problem. He’s a phenomenal teammate. He doesn’t talk with his mouth, he talks with his glove and his bat, and he can back it up.”

In some methods, skilled baseball — if Kligman will get that far — could possibly be a higher match, if solely due to a key necessity of 1 place on the discipline.

Of all the traits that decide the place gamers are positioned on the baseball discipline — athleticism, energy and whether or not a participant is left- or right-handed — faith has not often, if ever, been a issue. But as random as it could sound, Kligman’s religious Judaism is the cause he’s now concentrating on catching.

Owing to the bodily and psychological pressure of the place, catchers are given common days off throughout the week. In the skilled ranks, it’s typically one in all the weekend afternoon video games — doubtlessly an adaptable match for Kligman.

Kligman started specializing in catching this yr as a result of that could possibly be the greatest long-term path to a profession in baseball. He has the arm, the fingers and the brains for the place, Hubel mentioned, and the hope is that if Kligman makes it to the skilled ranks, his days off could possibly be set for Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.

With many groups now enjoying Saturday evening video games, Kligman may even arrive after the solar has set and play in these, too. He has completed it quite a few instances. The Kligmans wrap up their sabbath observance with the Havdalah ceremony — a ritual commemorating the finish of the sabbath, wherein contributors sip wine (or grapefruit juice on recreation day), mild a candle, sniff a candy spice to recall the sweetness of the day, say a prayer — after which Elie and Ari bounce of their uniforms and zoom off to a recreation.

“We can do Havdalah, get dressed in their uniforms and be out the door in less than 10 minutes,” Marc Kligman mentioned. “Really efficient.”

As phrase of Elie Kligman’s expertise and aspirations have unfold by the Jewish group, he has change into a common speaker on Zoom calls at Jewish day colleges and synagogues throughout the nation. The youthful youngsters need to know what quantity he wears and what his batting common is. The older one need to know the way exhausting his sacrifice is.

Kligman explains that what he’s doing is for God, so there isn’t any feeling of sacrifice.

“It’s pretty amazing that they are interested in my life,” he mentioned. “It kind of gives them hope that, if that’s what you really want to do, you can play baseball. But just not on Shabbas.”

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