BELMONT (KPIX) – Braden Bishop has been on pins and needles working out all winter at a baseball gym near his home on the peninsula. The former St. Francis High School star has been preparing for his first spring training with the Seattle Mariners who selected him in the third round of the 2015 draft.
But the magnitude of Bishop’s accomplishment is lost on his mom Suzy – her brain won’t allow it.
“I don’t know if she could process what it actually meant, but to see her be happy over a part of the dream of mine meant a lot,” said Bishop.
Suzy Bishop suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s which is a disease that affects just five percent of all patients. Early-onset represents anyone under the age of 65. Suzy was just 50 went her symptoms became noticeable.
“Five years ago she was normal, and five years has completely changed to her not being able to have any freedoms,” Bishop said while the family’s in-home caretaker cooked Suzy dinner.
Bishop chooses to remember the mother who was the VP of Production at NBC, and the parent who threw him batting practice as a little leaguer. She’s now someone who can’t find her way around the kitchen, and gets lost in a simple conversation.
“She used to speak so eloquently,” Bishop recalled before the Alzheimer’s symptoms began. “When she speaks now, if you don’t pay close attention, it’s hard to put together what she’s trying to convey.”
The disease has advanced to the point where Suzy will sometimes confuse Braden with his brother Hunter, a promising baseball player at Arizona State. “When will she not remember me? I try not to think about it,” Bishop said.
Bishop learned of his mom’s diagnosis when he was in college at the University of Washington where he carried a .293 lifetime batting average in three seasons with the Huskies. It was clear he had potential to play at the next level, but Bishop wasn’t thinking about the major league draft, instead he was considering returning to the Bay Area to be with Suzy.
“My biggest question was, ‘Do you want me to come home? I will happily stop playing the game to be with you because I know there’s only so much time left.’ Her answer to me was that this was my dream and she wanted me to chase it,” Bishop said.
And chase it he did. Bishop had his best season in the minor leagues last year. He hit .306 in 119 games and is the Mariners’ fifth rated prospect according to Baseball America.
As Bishop’s stock rises so does his cause – a charitable endeavor called “4MOM” that began when a college coach at Washington offered to organize a fundraising weightlifting competition.
From there “4MOM” grew into a foundation for Alzheimer’s patients and caretaker support. “It’s grown to the point where I can travel to Arkansas and meet a family that’s going through a similar situation, and I can bring hope to them,” said Bishop.
He’s raised $40,000 and it continues to add up. For every hit in spring training, Bishop will donate his own money to the “4MOM” foundation.
Coping with his mom’s disease has helped Bishop put baseball in perspective. He says he no longer worries about going 0-for-4, which could be why his transition to professional baseball has been so seamless.
He’s driven by Suzy to reach the big leagues – he calls that quest his “why.” His strength coach Todd Leanues says Bishop’s “how” is already taken care of.
“I’d put the house on Braden getting to the big leagues,” Leanues said.