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Jewish-born Cimarron draft pick hoping faith conquers all

When the Washington Nationals drselected Cimarron-Memorial’s Elie Kligman with their last pick in the Major League Baseball draft on July 13, it was more than believing in the potential of a long-shot prospect.

It was literally a leap of faith.

Kligman was the second orthodox Jewish player ever selected in the draft and the second in two days. The Arizona Diamondbacks took Jacob Steinmetz, a pitcher from Long Island, New York, in the third round with the 77th overall pick.

A shortstop and pitcher who is making the transition to catcher, Kligman honors the Jewish Sabbath, meaning he would not be available for games starting at sundown Friday through the completion of Saturday night.

“I would say the responsibility is being a good role model and just showing a good example,” the well-spoken teen said of shining light on his faith after barnstorming with Israel’s national baseball team before the Olympics. “If I can inspire people to be strong in their faith, that’s awesome. If I can inspire people to stay devout and pursue what they want to do despite the challenges they might have, then that’s awesome.”

He said he expects few challenges from the Nationals should he forsake a college career to turn pro. By switching to catcher, a position which lends itself to off days, sitting out on weekends won’t be as big an issue as it would for everyday players.

“They drafted me knowing my situation 100 percent,” said Kligman, whose father, Marc, is a baseball agent whose clients have included former Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz and first baseman Justin Bour.

Support from Southern Nevada’s Jewish community also has been strong. “Elie is an extremely talented athlete who is proving to the world that there is a place for observant Jews in Major League Baseball and in all sports,” said Larry Monkarsh, a Jewish National Fund-USA donor based in Las Vegas.

There’s still a lot of baseball to be played before the local youngster takes a spot among Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, Ken Holtzman and dozens of other players of Jewish ancestry in the big leagues.

But as once probably was said about those guys, faith conquers all.

Around the horn

■ In a related note, Mitch Glasser, a former social studies teacher at Green Valley High who has moved back to his native Chicago, is a utility man for Israel’s Olympic team. He played second base before the team added Ian Kinsler, a four-time MLB All-Star.

■ A T-shirt with Kinsler’s name and jersey number is listed among the best sellers on the official Team Israel baseball website. Other popular designs include “Matzo Baller,” “Shlo Motion” and “Shalom Batta, Batta.”

■ Only six of the 16 head coaches in place when Desiree Reed-Francois became UNLV’s athletic director in 2017 are still employed by the university. In a few months it will be only five when longtime Rebels men’s soccer coach Rich Ryerson retires.

■ UNLV football was once again picked to finish last in the Mountain West in a poll released during the conference’s football media days at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. In a slightly more interesting development, second-year Rebels coach Marcus Arroyo was ranked No. 37 by ESPN among the 130 current FBS coaches. The coaches were ranked based on their exploits as college players. Arroyo was a quarterback at San Jose State.

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First names for $100, Alex:

James Holzhauer, the “Jeopardy” legend and Las Vegas resident, was reminded how fleeting fame can be after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Friday’s Mariners-A’s game in Seattle.

“I posed for a selfie with a fan,” the smart guy wrote on his Twitter account,” and she said, ‘Thank you Ken, you’re my favorite!’”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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