Bishop didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s when his mom, Suzy, 55, was diagnosed, but he has become an amateur expert since. He and other players will donate money for research for each hit they get this season.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Center fielder Braden Bishop remembers the whiteboards in his mother’s office.
He marveled at how organized they were. It was a reminder of how Mom ascended toward the top of the entertainment industry and became an Emmy-winning television producer that helped launch shows such as Law & Order and Jag.
But it’s hard for Bishop to think back to those times, because that version of his mother has vanished. Diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease 3½ years ago, Suzy Bishop is prisoner of her own mind.
“To think of her doing that now — I can’t,” said the 24-year-old Bishop, the No. 4-ranked prospect in the Mariners organization. “The longer this goes on, the more distant those memories are.”
Bishop didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s when Suzy, 55, was diagnosed, but he has become an amateur expert since. He is also dedicated to educating other people in hopes of eradicating the disease.
While playing college ball at Washington three years ago, he organized a weightlifting competition called “Deadlifts to end Alzheimer’s,” which drew all of his teammates and raised a few thousand dollars. And just like that, Bishop’s inner philanthropist was born.
Look closely at Bishop’s glove and you’ll see “4MOM” stitched across the thumb. It is those four characters that inspired his charity, 4momalz.com, which has raised nearly $40,000 toward Alzheimer’s research the past three years.
Bishop has had auctions that included signed bats from Mariners such as Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino. He has hosted a charity game in which members of the Alzheimer’s Association handed out purple shirts (the color of Alzheimer’s awareness) to everyone in the crowd. And when the Huskies played Arizona three years ago on Mother’s Day, Bishop got every player for both teams to scrawl 4MOM on their arms.
But his spring-training proposal this year might be his most resonant act yet.
About a week before pitchers and catchers reported in Peoria, Bishop took to Twitter with an announcement. He said he would donate money to Alzheimer’s research for every hit he gets this spring — whether it’s in a major- or minor-league game — pledging $10 for every single, $20 for every double, $30 for every triple and $40 for every home run.
The tweet wasn’t a recruiting pitch so much as it was a chance to raise awareness for the sixth-leading cause of death in America. Nevertheless, nearly 90 people contacted Bishop and pledged to make similar donations.
One of them is Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger, who will give $10 for every hit. Another is Mariners pitcher Andrew Moore, who will give $10 for every strikeout and $30 for every walk or hit batsmen.
The altruism has spread throughout the Cactus League, involving players, managers and front-office personnel alike. Nuts how one tweet can lead to something so sweet.
“It says a lot about the person, no doubt,” manager Scott 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.”
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, nor really any way to slow it down. But researchers say efforts such as Bishop’s are critical in making strides for a cure.
He might not be donating $50 million, which Bill Gates did recently, but according to Dr. Thomas Grabowski, the director of the University of Washington Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, smaller contributions can help fund pilot programs that are integral to finding a cure.
More than anything, this is about raising awareness. When President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act into law in 2011, the goal was to find a cure or effective treatment by 2025.
Ambitious? Yes. Impossible? No. Not if people do their part, and the folks in Arizona are certainly doing theirs.
Bishop gets emotional when he talks about Suzy. She can’t communicate. She rarely recognizes him. It’s at the point where the “good days” are when she lacks any awareness so that she doesn’t suffer. Bishop wants to live in a world where nobody has to endure that again.
So good on him for stepping up. And good on everyone who has followed suit.
Ballplayers will tell you that success is the result of all the little things adding up. Curing a disease is no different.