Elie Kligman is a switch-hitter with power. He has pitched no-hitters and pitched innings, and he can snatch the ball with calm precision from any location in the infield. He is a star in every way at Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas, dreams of reaching even greater heights.
He is also Shomer Shabat, which means that he follows the strict rules of the Jewish Sabbath and cannot – and does not play – the ball before the sun sets on Friday night or Saturday afternoon.
Depending on talent and desire, Kligman is good enough to genuinely entertain his dream of playing Major League Baseball or at least top level college ball. But he knows that his devotion to his faith can shatter the dream he admits before it even starts.
And even if a big league team were promising a $ 10 million bonus to Klegman, with the promise that she would be playing in front of 40,000 people this summer – provided she was able to play on the Sabbath Agreed to – she insists that her trust.
Kligman said that when asked if he could be tempted to break his religious obligations. “That day of Shabas is for God. I’m not going to change it. “
Many Jewish players have refused to play on some religious holidays through the decades, mainly on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. One of the most notable examples came when Hall of Fame left-hander Sandy Koufax chose not to pitch. Game 1 of the 1965 World Series Because it fell on Yom Kippur. (His replacement, Don Drisdale, got the conch, and when manager Walter Alston removed him in the third inning, Drisdale said, “I bet you now wish I was Jewish too.”
But remembering the occasional game in October is nothing compared to sitting outside every Friday night and Saturday afternoon game. The concept can prove particularly tricky in college, where many programs play double headers on those days. It will be a challenge, but Kligman and his family, Eli and his younger brother Ari, have been working through the same hurdles ever since they were little boys.
Observant Jews cannot operate during a 25-hour period from dark to Saturday on Friday, nor can they use electricity, or for some, are found on tie knots, such as baseball spikes. They cannot tear clothes, like uniform pants that can be a thorn when a player enters another base, and they cannot bend clay, which technically occurs whenever spikes hay or encroach dirt. Rip in Above all, it is a day of separation for spiritual contemplation.
For Kligman, this is unattainable. As much as he loves baseball, he will not abandon his religious beliefs, even though he may ultimately fail everything he is working on. If there is a way around the conflict, it depends largely on whether he is good enough – some believe in baseball that he can be – in this case, college and then major league teams making concessions. Can allow him to stay true to himself. And his religion, and still play ball.
He is only 18 years old with a long way to go, but Kligman has already embarked on a journey to make baseball history.
“My goal is to become the first Shabas Observer player in Major League Baseball,” he said.
One advantage is his father, Mark Kligman, former catcher and outfielder with a self-described “nondescript career” at Johns Hopkins University. A lawyer, Mark Kligman, is also a licensed baseball agent, and he understands the scenario that prospects must navigate in order to fulfill their dreams. But his son’s search is different.
Over the years, Mark Kligman has had to petition his sons to schedule the minor leagues, pony leagues, itineraries, high school and all-star scouting events so that his boys can play more and more games. He said those efforts have generally been successful, as most people have tried to help.
Still, there are games and tough discussions left.
The first time this happened was when Ellie was 8 years old, she completed Saturday’s playoff game. During a moment alone with his son, Mark asks Ellie how he is doing. Ellie said she felt abandoned, but more important was Shabbas.
“I was blown away,” Mark Kligman said. “Here’s a kid who won’t put God second. But they believe that the two can coexist. They’ve got six days of the week that they can become a baseball player, and if college and majors League baseball is not keen on any change, so we can do what we can get. “
The Cligmans say there are a handful of college coaches – the family won’t recognize them, yet – who know of Ellie’s faith and still want him to play for their teams.
Ellie is 6 feet, about 185 pounds and ranked by Prep Baseball Report As the No. 14 prospect in Nevada, and he did well at the recent scouting event hosted by the publication, which had 65 Pro Scouts in attendance. Brett Harrison, who scouts Nevada for reports and has seen Kligman play several times, said he has the tools and baseball knowledge to make an impact in a Power 5 college program within a year or two.
Harrison said, “I think that with his ability to play multiple positions on the pitch and well, he will add inherent value to wherever he is going.
Kligman’s current coach is Mike Hubel, a former minor league player who has been coaching for 25 years, the last 22 at Kimeron-Memorial. Many of his players have gone on to play in big college programs and many have made it to the majors. He says Eli Kligman has the talent and drive to be a good supporter, but is unsure how college and professional teams – and the leagues they play in – will see their religious restrictions, which Hubel acknowledged He can be difficult to negotiate on time, even for a high school team that is ready to accommodate him.
“I think it’s going to be a challenge,” Hubel said, “but then, if you get a good Division I program that’s a good coach that’s ready to allow it, it’s not a problem.” Hoagie. He’s an unprecedented teammate. He doesn’t talk with his mouth, he talks with his gloves and his bat, and he can return it. “
In some ways, professional baseball – if Clegman gets that far – can be a better fit, if only because of the critical need for a spot on the field.
Of all the characteristics that determine where players are placed on the baseball field – athleticism, power and whether a player is left- or right-handed – religion has rarely, if ever been a factor . But as random as it sounds, the reason for Clegman’s pious Judaism he is now focusing on catches up.
Catchers are regularly discharged during the week, due to the physical and mental stress of the situation. In the professional ranks, it is often one of the weekend afternoon games – possibly an adaptable fit for Cleggman.
Kligman began focusing on catching this year because it might be the best long-term path to a career in baseball. He has hands, hands and states of mind, Hubel said, and the expectation is that if Cleggman falls into the professional ranks, his days could be scheduled for Friday nights and Saturday afternoons.
With many teams now playing Saturday night games, Cleggman can come after the sun and play in them as well. He has done it many times. The Clegmen celebrated their rest day with a havildar ceremony – a ritual of the end of the Sabbath, in which participants drank wine (or the juice of the game day), lit a candle, sniffed a sweet spice and recalled the sweetness of the day. , Says a prayer – and then Ellie and Ari jump into their uniforms and zoom in for a game.
“We can Hildah, get dressed in their uniforms and be out the door in less than 10 minutes,” Mark Kligman said. “Really efficient.”
Words of Eli Kligman’s talent and aspirations have spread through the Jewish community, becoming a popular speaker on video chat calls at Jewish day schools and synagogues across the country. Younger kids want to know what number of clothes he wears and what his batting average is. Old people want to know how hard their sacrifice is.
Kligman explains that what he is doing is for God, so there is no sense of sacrifice.
“It’s so amazing that they’re interested in my life,” he said. “It gives the kind of hope that if you really want to do, you can play baseball. But not just on Shabas.”