Max Wagner sat in Clemson’s dugout in February as his teammates took the field against Indiana. The sophomore was not in the Tigers’ opening day lineup, and would not start the next day either. By that point, he had hit two career home runs and played sparingly as a backup third baseman.
Five months, 500 miles and 75 college hits later, Wagner sat in a different dugout Tuesday.
In an Orioles jersey freshly printed with his name, Wagner spoke to reporters at Camden Yards for the first time since officially signing with Baltimore in the second round. As the No. 42 overall pick of the 2022 Major League Baseball draft earlier this month.
“These last five months have definitely been crazy for me,” he said. “I was confident I could get here, but the journey I’ve made in the last five months has been unreal.”
Wagner started just one of the first five games that year for Clemson, a team that did not make that year’s NCAA Tournament. But once in the lineup, he threw the ball all over the field. His 27 home runs ranked third in NCAA Division I, he easily led the Atlantic Coast Conference in slugging percentage and was named the ACC Player of the Year.
Suddenly, Clemson’s backup third baseman was a coveted MLB prospect. The Orioles selected him in the second round of last week’s draft and signed him for $1.9 million, a source with direct knowledge of the deal told The Baltimore Sun, slightly more than the slot value of $1,861,900. .
Wagner’s senior high school season in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus and any chance of him being selected in this summer’s draft — he was ranked No. 213 high school by Perfect Game. Classified as player – dashed when the draft was shortened from 40 rounds to five. The following year, as a true freshman at Clemson, he hit .214 in a reserve role.
Before this season, Wagner knew he was eligible for the draft, unlike most sophomores, because he would soon turn 21. But that was not on his mind as he fought for playing time.
“I didn’t really think about it,” he said, “I just thought about having fun and competing with my teammates, just trying to make the most of it.”
Wagner has an Orioles connection. His father served as a hitting instructor at the Impact Sports Academy in Wisconsin — run by another Green Bay native, Clemson player and Orioles draft pick Jason Burkin, who pitched for Baltimore from 2009 to 2012. hit
As a native of Green Bay, home of the Packers, the Wagner family owns it. Season tickets to Lambeau Field. So, it’s unlikely he’ll convert to become a Ravens fan.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Being from Green Bay, it’s kind of hard to get away from the Packers.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Nathan Ruiz contributed to this article.