PEORIA, Ariz. -- The message is simple: 4MOM.Braden Bishop bears the reminder on his baseball glove and in his heart. And now the young Mariners outfield prospect is spreading the word in a remarkable fundraising effort that has caught fire with fellow players around the game.Bishop's 55-year-old mom, Suzy, was
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The message is simple: 4MOM.
Braden Bishop bears the reminder on his baseball glove and in his heart. And now the young Mariners outfield prospect is spreading the word in a remarkable fundraising effort that has caught fire with fellow players around the game.
Bishop's 55-year-old mom, Suzy, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease 3 1/2 years ago when he was playing for the University of Washington. His initial response to write 4MOM on his arm before games eventually led to some annual charity auctions to raise money for Alzheimer's awareness programs.
But this winter, after earning his first invitation to the Mariners' Major League camp, Bishop decided to try something new, posting on Twitter that he'd donate $10 for every single he hits in Spring Training games, $20 for every double, $30 for triples and $40 if he manages to crack a home run.
The idea was noticed by some of Bishop's friends and teammates around the game and many jumped on board with their own offers to donate various amounts. Pitchers offered donations per strikeout, hitters pitched in with their own offers per hit or stolen base. Mariners farm director Andy McKay said he'll kick in $10 every time he says "process" this spring, a word McKay tosses out with great frequency.
At last count, Bishop said more than 85 players had pledged money, plus a number of coaches and even fans who've offered to match various results from their favorite players.
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"It's crazy," Bishop said, standing at his locker in the Mariners' Peoria Sports Complex clubhouse. "I had more of just a personal goal to start, and then a couple people said they wanted to join in or wanted to pledge money off what I was going to pledge. I said, 'Absolutely. The more, the better.'
"Then it kind of just sparked an idea. So I asked some guys who were close to me growing up and are in pro ball, and they were all about it. They kind of put the word out, then I asked guys like Andrew Moore, who I'd played with through college and early in pro ball. It just kind of took off. It's definitely exceeded my expectations. I guess that's the power of social media."
Bishop's motivation is now under 24-hour nursing care at their home in San Francisco. Just a few years ago, Suzy Bishop was a vice president of production at NBC. The former track runner at UCLA produced television shows like Law & Order and Jag, and won an Emmy for the production of "Separate But Equal," a movie about the life of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Now she can barely recognize or communicate with anyone.
Bishop could bury his head and say life isn't fair, but that isn't his way.
"There's plenty of days when I still say that," he said, "but I'm trying to go down another path."
Bishop, the Mariners' No. 4-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, knows he can't save his mom at this point. His fight is to help others in the future.
"There are a lot of people who don't know what Alzheimer's is until somebody close to them gets it," he said. "So raising awareness has been my main goal since Day 1. People should understand what it is so if they do see somebody with early signs, they can detect it and hopefully at some point -- I don't know when -- there should be some sort of fight or cure. Because at this point, you get diagnosed and then it's just downhill."
Bishop knows his focus needs to be on baseball as he undertakes his first Major League camp, so he's established a partnership with Alzheimer's Greater Los Angeles to handle the donations and operations of the charity.
"They do all the day-to-day stuff so when I come here, I don't have to worry about it," he said. "I get a lot of emails from people who want to tell their story to me. They feel a connection. I try to read all of them and then get it in the right hands to respond. It's a lot because I'm trying to focus on my job and you don't want to take away from that, but people need to tell their story and that's what I wanted."
Mariners manager Scott Servais has been impressed by Bishop's drive and embraces the effort.
"It says a lot about the person, no doubt," Servais said. "You see the whole thing he's gone through with his mom and the maturity level to step up and try to make a difference. I think it's awesome. And I think it's awesome that people are following.
"I know there are a lot of guys in our clubhouse that are donating. I will be as well. I will not make it public, but the guys in the room will know. In our society today, so many of us are affected by that disease. It's a real issue and I couldn't be any more proud of him."
For more information on Bishop's efforts or to donate to the fundraiser, visit his website at www.4momalz.com.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.