GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – When Green Bay Preble alum Max Wagner found out he was being selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the MLB Draft – it wasn’t how he had imagined.
“It’s a commercial break and I see that the Orioles pick is in. I’m like ‘Could this be it?'” said Wagner. “It’s during a commercial and I see, on the bottom of the screen, my name. I was like ‘No way’. Me and my buddy were the only ones that had noticed it and we both stand up and we’re going nuts.”
Even though Wagner and his friend had seen his name, his friends and family at his house did not see it.
“Of course, my mom was like ‘Just wait! I have to see it.’,” Wagner laughed.
Seconds later, the moment Wagner had worked for his whole life happened. He heard his name called at the MLB Draft. Wagner was the 42nd overall draft pick by the Baltimore Orioles.
“[My mom] couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. It was just such a surreal moment for my friends and family that were there and everyone else. Right after that, my phone went absolutely nuts. It was unbelievable,” said Wagner.
From winning the Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year award to committing to Clemson – Wagner’s journey to becoming a professional baseball player has been unique. During his freshman season in 2021 with the Tigers, Wagner only played in 35 games and batted .214/.305/.345 with 2 home runs and 9 RBI. He was primarily used as a defensive replacement.
Fast forward to Wagner’s sophomore season this year at Clemson, he wasn’t even a starter at the beginning of the season. He started the year on the bench. After winning a starting spot shortly after opening weekend, Wagner went on to bat .369/.496/.852 and tied the university’s home run record (27).
His stellar season put him in elite company. Not only did Wagner win the ACC Player of the Year, but he was a candidate for the most prestigious award in college baseball – the Golden Spikes Award.
“I knew what I had in me. The confidence never left. I just had to keep working hard and I didn’t even start opening day this past year for my sophomore year. To be where I am today – It still hasn’t sunken in yet for me,” Wagner said.
Sharing that moment with Wagner’s closest friends and family was important for the 20-year-old infielder, but getting to embrace his dad was something he won’t forget.
“I’m not a very emotional guy, but he is. I mean, he was breaking down. So was my mom. It was just a really emotional moment. Just all of the hard work I’ve put in pretty much since I was 5 years old, hitting with my dad every day – he was my coach growing up, and just to have that moment finally come true and the dream that I had and the dream my dad has had for me finally come true is just unreal,” Wagner expressed.
After Sunday, Wagner became the first baseball player ever from the Green Bay Public School District to get drafted. That was something Wagner was proud of. Names like Gavin Lux of the Dodgers and Jarred Kelenic from the Mariners all started their baseball journeys right in Wisconsin, but for someone like Wagner to do it in Northeast Wisconsin – he’s now the example for kids in the area.
“There’s definitely some talent coming out of Wisconsin now,” said Wagner. “Just to keep grinding. Even when you think times aren’t going to be there for you or workout for you in baseball, or really any sport or anything in life, you can definitely achieve them. Just put your head down and work.”