By Rob Charry
Some Jewish baseball fans know the name Elie Kligman, even though he’s just a freshman in college. That’s because last year he became one of the first two Orthodox Jewish players ever picked in a Major League Baseball draft.
But virtually no one knows about Kligman’s younger brother — who has the potential to be as good or better than his sibling.
Ari Kligman is now a high school senior, and while it doesn’t appear he will be drafted this year, he is beginning to attract attention from a number of Division I colleges. (His brother Elie Kligman chose to refine his skills at Wake Forest University, after being drafted No. 593 overall by the Washington Nationals.)
While Elie Kligman is primarily a catcher, Ari Kligman, who doesn’t turn 18 until the fall, is sizing up to be a pitching prospect. He can currently hit up to 89 miles an hour on the radar gun, and by next year, he’s hoping to top 90, to go along with a devastating curveball that could turn the heads of major league scouts. He joined his brother at the advanced Wake Forest pitching lab in the fall, to analyze his mechanics and make them more efficient.
A main takeaway: gain some muscle weight. Most MLB pitchers these days are over six feet tall. Ari Kligman is now 6-foot-2, 190 pounds — after gaining 20 pounds over the past year.
The brothers are very close, born just 20 months apart. Their sibling rivalry is less hierarchical than some families.
In their offseasons, Ari Kligman pitches to his brother, and they dream of becoming only the second major league Jewish sibling pitcher-catcher battery — in 1960, the Dodgers’ Larry Sherry pitched to Norm Sherry. (Since 1900, there have been four other sets of Jewish brothers in the majors besides the Sherrys, most in the earlier part of the 20th century: Sydney and Andy Cohen; Erskine and Sam Mayer; Lou and Harry Rosenberg; and Ike and Harry Danning.)
But that won’t happen on Shabbat.
While the other Orthodox MLB draftee Jacob Steinmetz says he would play on Shabbat — after walking to a stadium and not using electricity — the Kligmans are firm in their decisions not to play from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.