Seattle Mariners see 'good makeup' in Washington's Braden Bishop
SEATTLE – Tom McNamara was a Braden Bishop fan well before the Seattle Mariners took the center fielder from the University of Washington Tuesday in the third round of the MLB draft with the 94th pick.
About a month ago, Bishop was the subject of a feature in The Seattle Times. McNamara, who spends weeks out of the year traveling as the franchise's scouting director, read it during a trip.
“I was on the plane somewhere and I had my Internet on for about 15 minutes before it went out,” he recalled Wednesday.
At the time, Bishop was in the midst of a standout junior campaign. His raw speed and fielding had drawn the eyes of numerous major league scouts. He was on his way to a second consecutive All-Pac-12 defensive team selection and first All-Pac-12 designation after earning honorable mention in 2014.
The story had little to do with baseball.
The headline: UW baseball player Braden Bishop leads his mother’s fight against Alzheimer’s.
Bishop’s mother, Suzy, was diagnosed last September with early-onset Alzheimer’s at 54. To cope, Bishop began writing “4MOM” on his arm in Sharpie pen almost every day, always for games. He organized a dead-lift competition in Renton with UW assistant strength and conditioning coach Dave Rak. It raised about $6,000 for Alzheimer’s awareness.
“It’s very important to me,” Bishop said via teleconference this week. “My mom is my biggest advocate, and it’s tough to see her struggle, but it definitely put things in perspective for me. If I struggle, I know she’s going through a lot worse than I am.
“For me to bring this whole situation to light has been really important to me. It’s kept me going and provides motivation for me every day.”
Bishop had a monster junior campaign with UW. He led the Huskies in multi-hit games (16), hits (57), runs (38), stolen bases (15), doubles (14), total bases (85) and walks (23). He only committed one error in center field in 120 chances.
It helped him fight off question marks about his hitting ability. That and the way he steadily improved every year at UW stood out to the Mariners. His slugging percentage improved every season he played for the Huskies.
“That’s a stereotype that was put on me, but I strongly believe that I’m a good hitter,” he said this week via teleconference. “I’m not going to stop working at it. I don’t have it all figured out. But I’m going to learn. I’m excited to work with the coaches to take my bat to the next level. I’m willing and eager to do that.”
McNamara said Bishop, a San Carlos, Calif. native, isn’t close to a finished product. The reports of his bat being average?
“He made enough consistent sweet spot contact against guys that could throw hard,” McNamara said. “We purposely went to see him against Oregon State probably the last month of the year and I wanted to see him against (right-hander) Andrew Moore because it was a good matchup.
“He squared up one of the 92 mile-per-hour fastballs that he threw,” McNamara said. “That's important because that's what Braden's going to be seeing every night now once he signs his pro contract.”
He did it while trying to advance awareness for early onset Alzheimer’s, which affects people younger than 65. Approximately 200,000 people in the United States have the disease.
His mom’s diagnosis didn’t keep Bishop from excelling in school, as he earned Pac-12 all-academic team honorable mention the past two seasons.
When UW played Arizona on Mother’s Day in Tucson, Bishop made national headlines by getting both teams to write “4MOM” on their arms, helmets, wristbands and other parts of their uniform.
The day was a rousing success.
“To go through and to play, to raise the awareness of something like that and to carry the workload of school, the social life of college, the pressure of trying to go 3-for-4 every night,” McNamara said. “That's a lot on someone's plate. We call that good makeup.”