Braden Bishop had his best pro season in 2017, but hit just .176 this April. On Thursday night, it seemed the early-season slump was put behind him.
The Mariners' No. 5 prospect recorded his first career five-hit game as Double-A Arkansas fell to Northwest Arkansas, 9-7, at Arvest Ballpark.
"I've never even sniffed five hits," Bishop said, despite having had five four-hit games as a pro.
Video: Bishop leads off game with homer for Arkansas
The third-round selection in the 2015 Draft hit .306/.393/.413 last season with Class A Advanced Modesto and Double-A Arkansas, showing more extra-base power than in previous years.
"I think technically I'm not a power hitter," he said. "I'm not trying to hit 35 homers in a year, but if I have good direction and I'm trying to drive, my misses will be line drives.
"It's really just a recommitment to what I really worked on in the offseason: my weighted bat stuff and band work, where my bat barrel's out. I just kind of simplified it when I got in the box."
Bishop began with a bang against Royals No. 8 prospect Scott Blewett, blasting a homer leading off the first to left field. The right-handed hitter grounded a single to center in the third, lined a single up the middle in the fifth, lined another hit to center in the seventh and laced a hit to left in the ninth.
The University of Washington product has multiple hits in four of the past five games.
"I think I always take my cage work really serious," he said. "[But] through the first month, I was hitting balls hard or guys were making nice plays. The bad outweighed the good. I kind of just went back to my cage routines, made some adjustments within and I think the biggest thing was showing up ready to play because, in the past, if I struggled, it was almost like I was dreading the next day.
"But now I was excited for that next game or next at-bats, figuring I'm good to do something to help the team."
Gameday box score
After earning a midseason promotion last year, Bishop admitted he's thought about taking another step forward.
"There always something to chase," he said of his Triple-A aspirations. "I'm just out here trying to enjoy my teammates, just enjoy the experience."
Speaking of teammates, fellow Traveler Beau Amaral drove in four runs with two hits in the loss.
For the Naturals, designated hitter Anderson Miller homered and drove in two runs, and first baseman John Brontsema was 4-for-4 with a homer, double and two RBIs. Blewett (2-3) allowed five runs on seven hits over six innings but got the win.
While Bishop is making a name for himself on the field, he's also become well known off it for his philanthropy. The 4MOM foundation he began raises money for Alzheimer's disease research and awareness in honor of his mother, Suzy, who was diagnosed with the illness in 2014.
At Washington, Bishop conducted a fundraiser with his teammates, then continued his efforts by writing "4MOM" on his arms during games. That turned into his 4MOM charity, now a partner of Alzheimer's Greater Los Angeles. The goal: raise awareness about the neurodegenerative disease and raise money for research to combat it.
This spring, Bishop donated money to charity for every hit he got. A single led to a $10 donation, and a double made it $20. A triple was worth $30 and a homer $40. He went 8-for-16 in Spring Training with a triple and a double, and combined with the hits he got in Minor League games, gladly forked over $140.
The Mariners are proud of Bishop's development as a player, but more important to them is off-the-field commitment.
"We're just proud of him and the way our kids have rallied around him," said Andy McKay, Seattle's director of player development. "Close to every staff member is participating in some way or another. It's obviously, for him, very personal, and as I suspect most initiatives like this are initiated by people who have an up-close-and-personal experience."
Bishop plans to announce a new charity function around the end of the first half of the season.