Wagner is one shy of Clemson’s single-season home run mark.
Max Wagner was shocked when he heard the news that he had won the ACC Player of the Year Award, but he was happy it happened in front of his teammates as they prepared to leave for this week’s ACC Baseball Championship in Charlotte.
Wagner is Clemson’s 14th ACC Player-of-the-Year and first since 2016 (Seth Beer). Wagner also earned First-Team All-ACC honors.
He was asked Monday if he could put his emotions into words.
“I don’t think I can. It’s been an incredible ride, just all of the hard work I’ve been able to put in over the past year or year and a half,” Wagner said. “With the coaching staff and teammates by my side giving me the confidence each and every day, it really helped this process of me becoming where I’m at today.
“Just grateful. Shocked is probably the word that comes to mind when I first heard. Again, it was really cool to do it in front of my teammates because they’ve been a big part of this season for me and the coaching staff. I’m really grateful for the opportunity. The hard work I’ve been able to put in over the last year and a half is really starting to show.”
Wagner (Green Bay, Wis.) is hitting .379 with 26 homers, one triple, 15 doubles, 74 RBIs, 65 runs, an .867 slugging percentage, a .506 on-base percentage and two steals in 56 games (52 starts ) in 2022. He is among the national leaders in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS, and he is tied for the ACC lead in homers. His 26 home runs, one behind the Tiger record of 27, are also tied for fourth most in a season in ACC history.
Wagner was used a late-inning defensive replacement last season and led the team in games off the bench (13). He credited that as a learning experience.
“If I had to say one thing, it’s the experience I got freshman year. Although it didn’t go the way I’d want it to, just the experience I was able to see and the game I was able to play in really helped with what I was able to do this year,” Wagner said. “Even though I didn’t even start opening weekend, I was determined that I knew I was an everyday player here. I just come in here every day and try to be consistent. I never try to ride the highs, ride the lows. I just try to be an even keeled player. We’re playing baseball. You expect to be good. Here, we expect the best out of each and every one.”
He has hit a home run every 7.5 at bats in 2022, well ahead of the school record of 8.9, and his .867 slugging percentage is also best in a season in school history. He has reached base via a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch in each of the last 40 games as well.
What would it mean to break the single-season home run record?
“It would be pretty cool. I don’t know what year it was set but it was Khalil Greene who set it and he was an icon here at Clemson,” Wagner said. “It would be really cool achievement for me but I’m focused on the ACC Tournament starting tomorrow and hopefully continuing into a(n NCAA) regional.
“To hear my name with those kind of guys – the Clemson greats – it’s unreal. I know how much recognition those guys get. Really, it’s something I dreamed of getting to that point. I’m still working to get to that point, but I just feel grateful and the hard work has to go on.”
How did a kid from Green Bay wind up at Clemson?
“A friend of my dad’s was a pitcher here (Jason Berken). I’ve known him since I was like 10 years old and he knows Bradley LeCroy really well,” Wagner said. “I told Jason one day that Clemson was my dream school and he went over and told LeCroy that and got the communication started. They started coming to watch me. Once I got the right phone call, I knew I was destined to come here.”
Even though Wagner is just a true sophomore, he is draft eligible because he turns 21 in August (rules state that a player turning 21 within 45 days of the end of the draft is eligible). He told TigerNet he hasn’t thought about what would it take for him to leave or stay.
“The main thing I’m thinking about is winning tomorrow’s game, winning Thursday’s game,” he said, “trying to do my best for the team and put them in the best spot. I really haven’t thought about that. Even talking to my parents, they know I’m committed to this season and that stuff is later down the road.”
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