Bishop brothers now share common goal

Both with Giants, Braden and Hunter aim to reach Oracle Park

May 21st, 2021

can’t help but marvel at the emotional events that have defined the past few years of his life.

In March 2019, he made his Major League debut with the Mariners at the Tokyo Dome in Japan, taking over right field when Seattle icon Ichiro Suzuki ended his legendary playing career. Seven months later, Bishop lost his mother, Suzy, after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

The emotional turbulence continued during a whirlwind week earlier this month. On May 10, Bishop and his wife, Brianna, welcomed their first child, a son named Boston Alexander. Three days later, Bishop’s tenure with the Mariners came to an end when the 27-year-old was designated for assignment.

After three days in DFA limbo, Bishop received a call on Monday morning with thrilling, yet unexpected news: He had been claimed off waivers by the Giants, his childhood team, giving him a chance to return to his native Bay Area and reunite with his younger brother, Hunter, who was San Francisco’s first-round Draft pick in 2019.

“Honestly, I don't know how much more I can take emotionally,” Braden said during a phone interview. “I mean, my whole life is different than it was 10 days ago.”

The circumstances couldn’t have aligned more perfectly for Braden, who was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento.

Coincidentally, he and Brianna recently bought a house in Lincoln, Calif., roughly a 30-minute drive from Sutter Health Park. Instead of returning to the Mariners’ top affiliate in Tacoma, Bishop will get to stay home with his family and watch baby Boston grow while also pursuing a fresh start with a new organization.

“If he was in Tacoma still, he wouldn't see his baby for like four months,” said Hunter, who’s ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Giants’ No. 4 prospect. “But now, he gets to live in Sacramento at his house with his baby. It's crazy how it comes full circle, for sure.”

Braden and Hunter, who are separated by five years, never got to play on the same teams growing up, yet they now find themselves in the same organization, representing the Major League club they rooted for as kids in San Carlos, Calif.

“I never thought the Giants would claim me because I feel like it was almost too good to be true,” Braden said. “I didn’t want to upset myself if it didn't happen.”

Hunter, though, allowed himself to dream. When the Mariners DFA’d Braden, Hunter tweeted about the possibility of his older brother landing in San Francisco.

While he was thrilled to see his wish manifest itself a few days later, Hunter said he can’t actually take credit for pulling any strings behind the scenes.

“No, no, no, no,” he said, laughing. “I definitely have 0.0% say in anything.”

Hunter did receive a bit of advance notice from the Giants. Before Braden’s acquisition was officially announced on Monday, Hunter heard from Giants director of player development Kyle Haines, who asked if he’d been in touch with his brother.

“I thought [Braden] did something,” Hunter said. “‘What’d this idiot do now?’ But then [Haines] said, ‘Call him.’ So I called my brother, and he was like, ‘Uh, yeah, they just picked me up.’ The first day was like a shock, but now it's just starting to set in.

“It's a story you watch in a movie, honestly.”

A former standout at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif. and at the University of Washington, Braden was selected by the Mariners in the third round of the 2015 Draft, but he never received an extended look in the Majors with Seattle. He missed three months in ‘19 after being sent to the hospital with a lacerated spleen and went 12-for-90 (.133) over parts of three big league seasons.

Braden said he always felt “awkwardly in the middle” with the Mariners. He was too young to contribute when they were trying to build competitive teams around Robinson Canó, Nelson Cruz and Félix Hernández, yet he was too old to be included among the incoming wave of prospects who are expected to comprise Seattle’s next core. He was DFA’d to clear roster spots for Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert, two of the Mariners’ top-ranked prospects.

“I kind of saw that wear and tear on my brother, in the same situation, same organization, every single year,” Hunter said. “If you're human, it's going to affect you.”

Known as a strong defensive outfielder, Braden has compiled a solid track record in the Minors, posting a .290/.365/.394 slash line with 24 home runs and 51 stolen bases in 417 games. The right-handed hitter has posted an .820 OPS in 47 career games at the Triple-A level and should help provide some upper-level outfield depth for the Giants, particularly in center field.

“He’s a great, great dude,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “Obviously, a very athletic outfielder, good baserunner. Athletic in general, which shouldn't surprise anybody, given he's Hunter’s brother. I'm excited about his potential.”

Braden is the 11th outfielder listed on the Giants’ 40-man roster, joining such recent arrivals as LaMonte Wade Jr. and Mike Tauchman. His spot isn’t guaranteed, as the Giants likely will face a roster crunch once such rehabbing players as Tyler Beede and Tommy La Stella begin to come off the 60-day injured list, but Braden said he’s looking forward to getting a fresh start and potentially opening eyes again.

As they’ve shown with Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson, the Giants have a penchant for identifying outfielders who were undervalued elsewhere and helping them unlock something new in San Francisco. Braden has the advantage of already being familiar with many of the Giants’ coaches, including director of hitting Dustin Lind, who worked for the Mariners organization before joining Kapler’s staff ahead of the 2020 season.

“I think it would just be nice to kind of get in a new scenery, some new coaches and just see what I can learn and pick up and, hopefully, grow some more,” Braden said.

“I know them a little bit from their interactions with Hunter. I know they're really good people, and at the end of the day, that's really all I care about because I know I'm going to be human for a lot longer than I am a baseball player. I think it starts and ends there for me. Anything I can pick up on the field, hopefully, I can get back up and see if I can help them win up top. That would be really cool.”

Braden is closer to playing at Oracle Park than Hunter, who opened the 2021 campaign at High-A Eugene but is currently rehabbing a mild right shoulder injury. Braden described the Giants’ waterfront ballpark as a “mythical” place for him because of all the childhood memories forged there, but he said he can’t imagine himself playing the outfield there quite yet.

“It's hard to because it doesn’t seem real to me,” Braden said. “I'll probably have to cross the bridge when I get there, but I think it'll definitely be emotional because of how many games we went to.”

Regardless of their performances on the diamond, Braden and Hunter remain committed to making their impact felt away from the field. After Suzy was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2014, Braden founded the 4MOM Charity to raise awareness and funds for research aimed at finding a cure for the disease. Since then, Braden and Hunter have devoted countless hours to the cause, regularly hosting charity events to help provide support to families who have been affected by Alzheimer’s.

Braden still carries his mom’s lessons with him every day, channeling her resilience, kindness and passion at every stop in his own journey. He felt her presence as he once again found his footing following another period of emotional tumult this week.

“I was definitely happy,” Braden said. “I just felt like my mom was looking over me.”