PEORIA, Ariz. — In the late innings of most spring training games, substitutes are playing based on feel rather than an intimate knowledge of their opponent.
A baserunner might not know much about an outfielder’s arm and an outfielder may have little sense of a baserunner’s speed, but that wasn’t the case at the Peoria Sports Complex on Thursday.
When San Francisco Giants prospect Hunter Bishop stole second base and saw the catcher’s throw rolling into center field, he knew everything about the outfielder he was challenging. Hunter’s older brother Braden picked up the ball, wound up to fire to third base and thought better of trying to force the ball.
Braden knew with Hunter’s blazing speed, even a perfect throw would be too late.
“I realized how long his strides are and realized I had no shot,” Braden said. “So I held onto that one.”
As soon as Hunter popped up from his slide at third base, he turned straight to the outfield.
“I was shaking the finger at him, no,” Hunter said. “He couldn’t get me. It was all fun and games, but even if he was going to throw me out, I was going to test him.”
For the first time in their lives, the Bishop brothers played in the same baseball game. They played the same position, too.
“We never got to play against or with each other growing up,” Braden said. “He picked up baseball so late so it was kind of hard to, but I just remember the guy bat-boying for all of my teams growing up.”
The San Carlos, Calif. natives are five years apart in age, but no longer separated by much on the diamond. Braden, 26, is a Mariners prospect and St. Francis (Mountain View) grad who made his major league debut last season while Hunter, 21, is a Giants prospect and product of Serra (San Mateo) who was chosen 10th overall in the 2019 MLB Draft.
Braden, a third round pick out of the University of Washington in 2015, has already had 56 at-bats at the major league level. He believes Hunter, a prolific slugger at Arizona State, isn’t far behind.
“I’ll honestly put him up against anyone in the big leagues athletically,” Braden said. “I’ve been in the big leagues, I’ve seen some unbelievable athletes and I think he stacks up right there.”
Hunter paid Braden an even higher compliment. He called his brother his “idol,” postgame, and not just because of the example he’s set in professional baseball.
Six years ago, their mother, Suzy, was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease, flipping the life of a family upside down. During college, Braden started the 4MOM Foundation as a way to honor Suzy and ease the burden for families dealing with Alzheimer’s.
Suzy died after a five-year battle with the disease in October, 2019, but the brothers see the foundation as their opportunity to carry out her legacy.
Upon graduating high school in 2016, Hunter slowly became more involved with the foundation and together, the brothers have raised more than $300,000.
“I wanted him to see that more meaningful work is done off the field,” Braden said. “You really find your purpose outside the lines. It’s so easy to tie who you are and your identity to what you do between the lines, but the sooner you can get the perspective of it’s not about who you are as a baseball player, it’s who you are as a person.”
Thursday’s game between the Mariners and Giants marked the second time Hunter has appeared in a major league spring training game and the first in which he recorded a hit. Before he joined Braden in the stolen base column, he laced a line drive single into left center field.
The single made good on a promise he made to his brother, too. When Hunter found out Wednesday night he was schedule to appear in the matchup with the Mariners, he started some early trash talk.
“I told him, I’m getting a hit and he ain’t,” Hunter joked. “And look what happened.”
The next time Braden’s Mariners play Hunter’s Giants, the Bishop brothers have something much bigger in store. After the March 8 matchup in Scottsdale Stadium, the brothers are hosting their second annual TopGolf4MOM event in Scottsdale which benefits their 4MOM Foundation.
TopGolf4MOM is one of 22 events the foundation will hold in 2020, a sign of all the hard work the brothers have devoted to honoring their mother’s legacy. Braden believes his platform will grow as he gains more experience with the Mariners and he sees a similar opportunity for Hunter as he rises through the ranks of the Giants’ organization.
Forming personal bonds with families touched by Alzheimer’s has become a primary focus.
“We’re creating a grant in my mom’s name, the Suzy Bishop memorial grant, and we’re going to do some research and gift it to the family who needs financial help with the disease,” Braden said.
What the brothers can accomplish off the field is helped in part by the recognition they gain on it. And as Braden knows, the Bay Area loves a locally-grown star.
“I think (Hunter) has some of the best power I’ve ever seen,” Braden said. “So I’m hoping he wears out that cove that we spent so much time watching Barry hit balls into.”