SACRAMENTO — To new fathers everywhere, a smiling Braden Bishop is relatable.
“I’ve been around kids before, but once they’re your own — and you created it — you can’t just go hand it off to like your brother or sister,” Bishop said recently. “The perspective now is crazy.”
Relatable to a point. It is hard to comprehend many enduring the kind of May that Bishop went through.
May 9 he left the Mariners for paternity leave. On May 10 he and his wife, Brianna Ruiz Bishop, welcomed Boston Bishop into the world. Three days later, Seattle designated Bishop for assignment, cutting him from the only professional organization he has known since he was a third-round pick in 2015. The Giants picked him up May 14, reuniting the St. Francis High School grad in an organization with his brother, 2019 first-round pick Hunter, who plays for High-A Eugene.
And the Giants quickly designated Braden for assignment, seeking a way to keep him in the organization without his occupying a 40-man roster spot.
“Mentally, at that point, it was exhausting,” Bishop said from Sutter Health Park. “And at the same time, you’re so alone because you don’t have a team to be around. You don’t have the game to be around.”
Finally, on May 26, he had a club again. He passed through waivers and would no longer be on a major league roster, but would be home. For him and Brianna and Boston, home means Lincoln, a 35-minute commute from Triple-A Sacramento.
He can drive home after games with a smile, knowing that Boston won’t care whether he played well or not. If he were with the Mariners — if he were with Seattle’s affiliate at Triple-A Tacoma — he would miss the first few weeks and months of his son’s life.
“Out of all the teams, big league and minor league in the country, I’m at the one where I can actually see them over the next three months,” Bishop said.
The way he has been playing, though, perhaps the River Cats’ home won’t be his work office for long.
Bishop is more than a feel-good story, a local legend brought home and Hunter’s big brother. He came with the reputation as an excellent outfielder and has shown a sizzling bat since he joined the Giants’ organization. In the small sample size of 11 games and 50 plate appearances with the River Cats, the 27-year-old is slashing a silly .432/.480/.659, including slugging a homer, three doubles and two triples. He is 19-for-44, and a batting average that is over .400 tends to raise eyebrows. The big-league Giants’ outfield has been deep but has seen recent regression from Steven Duggar and Mike Tauchman. Bishop is a righty hitter, and Austin Slater, too, has slumped.
The bat was the issue with Seattle, where Bishop posted solid minor league numbers but hit .133 with 33 strikeouts in 99 major league plate appearances from 2019-2021, never getting an extended look but his swing not demanding one, either. He doesn’t hold anything against Seattle and understands why he didn’t play more often.
“Obviously your play is going to dictate kind of where your opportunities are,” said the Woodland native. “And it was unfortunate — I think the day that I was really going to get my opportunity, I ruptured my spleen.”
Yep. His major league debut, in 2019, came at the Tokyo Dome, where he took over for legendary Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki after the final MLB game of Ichiro’s life. Bishop was then up and down until he was supposed to be firmly up at the beginning of June — only to require emergency surgery that kept him out of the majors until September of that season.
“After that, I’m coming back at like 70 percent, trying to hit big-league pitching,” Bishop said. “So I think when I look back, I don’t regret anything with my time in Seattle because I felt like I did everything I possibly could, and, end of the day, the performance just wasn’t where it needed to be.”
If he sounds particularly clear-eyed, his background may help explain it. He spearheaded a charity, 4Mom, which fights for the first survivor of Alzheimer’s, the disease that claimed his and Hunter’s mother, Suzy. Coming aboard with the Giants should give him easier opportunities to grow the charity locally as well as giving him a fresh start; the opportunity to be home for at least a little while.
For a little while, there won’t be the option’ing and calling-up and sending-down, his yo-yo’ing whereabouts often determined by the big-league club’s need rather than recent performance.
“I kind of just felt like I lost having fun and just loving being out here,” Bishop said. “… I felt like I was always getting disrupted — most of the time by myself — so just trying to find my way back to that and then, hopefully, back to who I was in 2018.”
His last year as a full-time minor leaguer, he hit .284 with eight home runs in 84 games while playing outfield defense that consistently impressed.
Not that Boston would look at him any differently if he slumps.
“I feel like I’m here for a reason,” Bishop said.