Behind the Story: Joey Wagman’s underdog baseball journey

I first heard about Joey Wagman and his story when he was being interviewed for the CJ Silas Show ESPN 1280 radio because I am one of her current interns. Once I caught a glimpse of his interesting journey to the Olympics as well as being a former Cal Poly baseball player, I knew this was a story that would be interesting not just to me, but for others in the SLO community also.

So I then contacted him first via direct messaging when I found his Instagram page and he responded relatively quick. Wagman agreed to do the interview through Zoom since we are currently unable to do in-person interviews due to the pandemic. However, interviewing through Zoom worked just as fine since we were able to communicate verbally and were able to see each other (even though it was just through a computer screen).

I was also interested in this story specifically because to me, there’s various angles and narratives within this story besides the circumstances of the Olympics being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As I was researching and interviewing Joey, I couldn’t help but notice that his underdog type of mentality, in my opinion, helped him become a major part of team Israel’s recent success considering team Israel themselves were a major underdog within international baseball competition,” said Eric Villalpando.

I also thought the newer phenomena of growing the sport of baseball in Israel and the work that the team does with children in Israel brought another unique and interesting aspect to the story that shows this story goes beyond the game of baseball.

“We can kind of be those ambassadors, those groundbreakers for the game of baseball in Israel and give these kids in Israel somebody to look up to and try to usher in the game to a place that doesn’t really have it,” Wagman said. 

While I was writing the story, I was happy to see that for the most part, Wagman’s answers were very thoughtful, honest, and was just a great interviewee overall. Although crafting the final product took some time to work out, getting a story out like this one was a great experience not just because of the story being told, but also being able to talk to interesting people that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t a journalist.