SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — For Hunter Bishop, the last year has been all about learning to stay, in his words, “even-keeled.”At 21 years old and in his first Spring Training — which was cut short when baseball took a back seat to safety with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic — MLB.com’s
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — For Hunter Bishop, the last year has been all about learning to stay, in his words, “even-keeled.”
At 21 years old and in his first Spring Training — which was cut short when baseball took a back seat to safety with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic — MLB.com’s No. 71 overall prospect exuded a confidence he developed by establishing a levelheaded mentality during his debut professional campaign.
When the Giants selected Bishop with their first-round pick — 10th overall — in the 2019 Draft, they knew they were getting a power-hitting outfielder with stealthy speed. A Bay Area native, Bishop graduated from Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California, before eschewing a verbal commitment to play football at the University of Washington in favor of pursuing baseball at Arizona State. After two auspicious but inconsistent college seasons, Bishop broke out for an electric junior campaign, barreling 22 homers and swiping 12 bases in 57 games.
It was enough to entice the Giants, who signed him for $4.1 million. Plus, the last time San Francisco signed a Junipero Serra-turned-Arizona State product, it worked out pretty well. The name Barry Bonds ring a bell?
The fourth-ranked Giants prospect made easy work of the Rookie-level Arizona League, posting a 1.003 OPS in seven games. He was promoted to Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer, where he compiled a .224/.427/.400 line, cranking four homers and stealing six bases in 25 contests before being sidelined with turf toe on his left foot.
He was healthy and building on his 2019 experience in camp, with a couple tastes of life on the big league side, before the Cactus League came to a halt on March 12.
“This has definitely been a learning experience,” he said. “Coming from college, where you’re practicing two hours a day and then your games are four times a week, to go to every day, six to seven hours … I love it, but it’s definitely a learning curve. It’s a process to get acclimated to the pro ball scene.
“My biggest takeaway was to come prepared — to have a routine that I can fall back on. In college, if you have a bad weekend, you have some time to recover. In pro ball, you’re playing every single day. No matter if it’s going good or bad, you really need to have a routine. For the first summer, I was learning what my routine was, what my preparation level should be and what I should expect out of the day in and day out grind of playing every day.”
Those lessons were necessary for Bishop, who spent much of his early college seasons overanalyzing his performances, ultimately leading to inconsistency. Now he incorporates a much more relaxed mentality, although he’s still eager to surpass high expectations.
“Anytime you have any sort of ‘status,’ you can get pressure, but I love it.” he said. “I think it’s something I have to live up to. … That pressure is a privilege.”
That pressure, of course, stems from being a first-round pick and one of five San Francisco prospects to crack the Top 100. The Giants system is in decent shape, as only the top-rated Rays have more farmhands in the overall rankings. Bishop joins catcher Joey Bart (No. 14), infielder Marco Luciano, (No. 35), outfielder Heliot Ramos (No. 65) and left-hander Seth Corry (No. 99).
“This spring, I’ve been able to be around guys like Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval,” he said, “people whom I see their mentality day in and day out, and they’re never too high and never too low. It’s really maturing mentally.”
Taking notes from players like Pence and Sandoval is even more special for Bishop, who grew up attending Giants games with his father, Randy, and older brother, Braden.
“It’s just all coming full circle,” he said, noting that he also takes instruction from Pat Burrell, who recently was hired as Class A Advanced San Jose’s hitting coach. “At the end of the day, though, you’re able to be a fanboy for a little and then it becomes a reality. For me, it’s like I want to take it in, but also I’m not far away. I’m one good season away from being right in the mix.”
Another spring highlight for Bishop was the opportunity to cross off another first. He was called up to big league camp for the Giants’ matchup with the Mariners. His aforementioned brother, Braden Bishop, is Seattle’s No. 18 prospect. The two were able to play against each for the first time ever. Due to their age difference (Braden is 26), the brothers never faced off at any level — Little League, high school or college.
The Bishop brothers creating a memory together. pic.twitter.com/bgtBBEncKq
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) February 27, 2020
“For that to happen and the first time being in a big league game was pretty special,” Bishop said with a smile. “That’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
The timing was especially impactful for the Bishop family — Braden and Hunter’s mother, Suzy, died in October after a five-year battle with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. She was 59.
The two honored their mother in a second way this spring, thanks to the foundation they started in 2014, dubbed 4MOM Charity. Each spring, the Bishop brothers put on the foundation’s biggest event of the year at TopGolf — a driving-range themed arcade — in Scottsdale. They raised a record $85,000 this year to benefit Alzheimer’s Disease research.
“It really exceeded our expectations,” Hunter Bishop said. “The support from the Giants organization alone has been amazing. Then you add my brother, the Mariners, our friends and family … it was really surreal to see how many people came to support a great cause. It’s only going up from here.”
Like everyone, Hunter is unsure when baseball will return. In these uncharted times, guidelines are fluid and restrictions are evolving. But if there’s one thing you can count on from Bishop, it’s a level head as he enters new territory.
Katie Woo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiejwoo.