Pitcher Joey Wagman ‘Ready to Represent Israel, the Entire Jewish People’ on Olympic Baseball Squad
Jewish baseball player Joey Wagman said he’s full of excitement ahead of Team Israel’s debut at the Tokyo Olympics later in July.
“I really could not be more excited,” the Danville, California, native told his alma mater, the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. “I feel prepared and ready to represent Israel, the entire Jewish people, the Bay Area, San Luis Obispo and my friends and family. This is a special opportunity and I am thankful to be in this position.”
Wagman, who is also a substitute teacher, is one of two Bay Area pitchers on the Israeli baseball team, the other being DJ Sharabi, 29, of Burlingame, California. Only six international teams will play baseball in the Olympics this summer: the host team Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Israel, the United States and the Dominican Republic.
The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is set for July 23, two days before Wagman turns 30. He said about spending the milestone occasion in Tokyo, “I have been to some crazy places on my birthday as it is in the summer and I am always playing baseball on my birthday, but this will easily be the coolest of them all.”
Wagman was a freshman at Cal Poly in 2009 and by 2013, he broke the school’s record for wins in a season. He graduated with a degree in international business and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox, earning 21 wins in five minor league seasons. He also played on four independent teams, taking home seven more wins, and joined the Israel WBC Baseball Team in 2017.
The Olympics in Tokyo will mark the first time Israel’s national baseball team has competed at the Olympic finals since 1976 and Wagman was the first member of the Israeli team to become a citizen of Israel, which is required for all Olympic athletes competing on behalf of the Jewish state. He told The Jewish News of Northern California in May, “It’s surreal, representing a country that has not had a team in the Olympics in more than 40 years. Being able to wear Israel across my chest — it’s a huge honor.”
“It’s so much bigger than myself, so much bigger than the guys on the team or even baseball,” he said. “It’s not only representing a country, it’s representing a people.”
Team Israel is currently playing nine exhibition games, from July 11-20, before flying to Tokyo. The six-team Olympic Baseball Tournament will run from July 28 through August 7, with Team Israel facing South Korea on July 29 and Team USA the next day.
“The Olympics has been in the news a lot, and it hasn’t always been good news, but we have stayed ready and this is what we have been preparing for ever since we qualified,” Wagman said, referring to the Games being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Israel has also been in the news as of late, and this is a chance to showcase Israel in a positive light. Sports always has a way of bringing people together and we hope to accomplish that while achieving success on the field.”