If you ask Joey Wagman to describe his baseball career, he’ll tell you—with a wink—it’s a bit unorthodox. Since his 2013 graduation from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he earned All-American honors and served as team captain for two years, he’s played in both the minor leagues and several different independent leagues.
Since 2013, he’s also pitched for Team Israel, thanks to rules that allow those with Jewish heritage to represent the country at many levels of play. To reach the top echelon, however—the Olympic Games—requires national citizenship. So in 2018, Wagman and nine of his Jewish-American teammates became dual citizens.
This past September, Joey pitched for his new nation in the Africa/Europe 2020 Olympic Qualification tournament—leading them to victory and securing the team’s spot in Tokyo. It’s a moment that, back in high school or even early in his pro career, he never could have imagined, he told us on this week’s episode of The Injured Athletes Club.
He also explains that the high he’s riding was made all the more meaningful due to the lows from which he’d recently emerged—a shoulder injury the prior summer that required surgery in December of 2018 and affected his mental health in ways that caught him off guard.
On this episode, Joey shares:
- More about how it is that he came to be playing in the Olympics for Team Israel (6:32)
- How injuries are viewed in baseball generally, and among pitchers specifically (12:27)
- The shoulder injury that set him back last year, and why an incorrect diagnosis and prognosis at first was so devastating (13:56)
- How The Injured Athletes Club podcast played a role in Joey’s recovery (and also why it was sometimes tough to listen) (18:50)
- The darker days he experienced along the way, and how they took him by surprise (20:21)
- Why he feels so compelled to share them: To let other athletes know they’re not alone, and they won’t feel that way forever (22:35)
- Why it’s important to recognize baseball as something he does, but not all he is (25:52)
- The biggest factors in lifting him out of the low spots (26:49)
- His most crucial advice for other injured athletes (28:51)
- How he plans to continue building his confidence heading toward the 2020 Games (37:07)
- Joey’s website, Instagram, and Twitter
- Some background on the team’s journey, from the Wall Street Journal and the Jerusalem Post
- Joey’s GoFundMe to raise money for his trip to the Games
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