Drayer: Mariners’ Braden Bishop has unique view of risks from playing during a pandemic
By all rights, 2020 should have been a bounce-back season for Mariners outfielder Braden Bishop.
He never quite felt comfortable at the plate in 2019, his debut season in the MLB, and saw his year end prematurely in scary fashion after he discovered shortly after being called up to the big leagues in early June he had suffered a lacerated spleen the week before in Tacoma.
While he had been optioned to Tacoma before 2020 spring training shut down, this year he feels more comfortable with his swing and is ready to fight his way back into whatever opportunity he can find. With a 60-game season on tap and the clock ticking, those opportunities are scarcer and more precious. They are also a motivating factor for Bishop in attempting to find a way to play safely in a pandemic.
“I’m definitely concerned,” he said about the current situation. “I think a lot of guys are and I think you can judge that by what guys are saying. But I do think we are all in different situations. I feel like I am in a situation now, while I do have a choice, it would put me in a very interesting position for my career. And I think a lot of guys whether early in their careers in the big leagues or fighting for spots, it’s just a really tough spot to be in and you want to make a smart decision.”
Through the work with his charity foundation that supports research for Alzheimer’s disease, which claimed the life of his mother, Bishop has had access to top neurologists who have provided him with information about the coronavirus and painted a more complete picture of what baseball is dealing with in trying to return. The issue further hit home when his brother Hunter, the No. 1 pick for the Giants in 2019, tested positive for the virus, which he contracted from a waiter after dining at a restaurant in Arizona last month.
“It was definitely scary,” Bishop said of his brother’s diagnosis. “From the information I have received from trusted doctors that we work with and their level of concern with the risk that we take, when I heard it, it was obviously, he’s my brother, I want him to be safe. He admits that he probably took risks that he didn’t need to take and then it put his opportunity to go up with the Giants and be part of their taxi squad on hold for a bit. I’m just glad he didn’t have bad symptoms or it didn’t take him out like it has some other people but it’s definitely scary.”
Bishop noted that while his brother’s symptoms weren’t severe, they don’t know what the adverse effects could be down the line, just one of the many reasons why the disease should be taken seriously by everyone. Bishop himself did that quarantining at home in California during the shutdown, listening to the doctors and doing what he could to boost his immunity through diet and supplements. Now in camp he sees no reason to let up despite the testing and protocols players are subject to.
“I think the biggest problem is you could put in the greatest protocol ever but if you don’t have full compliance by every single guy and every employee it just puts the whole thing at risk,” he said.
And that’s the kicker. While T-Mobile Park is referred to as “the bubble” by some, a true bubble can only be achieved if there is no outside exposure. While the Tier 1 players are protected from the Tier 3 media and personnel at the park, at the end of their four-hour work day they leave the building. There is nobody there to remind them to keep their distance or to put their masks on or to not take an unnecessary risk like Bishop’s brother did.
“It’s tough because we all have our own opinions,” he said. “Some guys aren’t as concerned, some guys are very concerned. Some guys don’t have families, it’s just themselves, some guys have two or three kids.”
One of the dads of three, Kyle Seager, has been leading the charge in trying to reinforce that the actions of few could have major consequences for many, according to Bishop.
“(Seager) talked to us yesterday about we are put in this position, we have this opportunity to try and play, we can only control so much but what we need to control is extremely important,” he said. “You have to take into account like I am going back to the hotel and I can’t do these certain things that I have been able to do in the past because they can effect 50 people, 60 people. While the percentages are small, you don’t want one of those very serious cases to be a part of our group.”
Bishop has made the decision to play for now. For him baseball looks different both on and off the field. Routines have been changed and the freedoms the players have had off the field in the the stadium are gone. It’s what they have to do if they want to have games. He will continue to do his part and hopes that others around him will as well.
“There’s just a lot of risk all the way around but we are here and we will try to make the most of it,” he said.