The Huskies’ speedster was as fast as anyone in NCAA baseball and an elite defensive player. Off the field, Bishop made headlines as he began a personal mission to bring awareness to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which his mother, Suzy, was diagnosed in September at age 54.

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Tom McNamara tried to remain skeptical during the many times he scouted University of Washington center fielder Braden Bishop.

The Mariners’ scouting director had heard Bishop’s critics and seen the initial reports — his hitting doesn’t match his many other talents.

It might have been the only negative anyone could find about Bishop as a player or a person.

The Huskies’ speedster was as fast as anyone in NCAA baseball and an elite defensive player.

Off the field, Bishop made headlines as he began a personal mission to bring awareness to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which his mother, Suzy, was diagnosed with in September at age 54.

Speed, defense, makeup? Check. But the hitting?

“To be honest, I was coming in looking for reasons to say, ‘Well, I’m not so sure this guy is going to hit,’ ” McNamara said. “And you know what? He proved me wrong.”

It’s why the Mariners were happy to take Bishop with their third-round selection Tuesday — No. 94 overall — to open Day 2 of the Major League Baseball draft.

“He’s got something that you can’t teach, and you can’t take away from him — he can fly,” McNamara said. “He can really play center field, and he can really throw.”

Bishop, a Bay Area native, said he believes he can really hit.

“All through the draft process it’s been made pretty public that I have a weak bat,” Bishop said. “But I’ve never believed that. I bought into my role here at UW, and that called for me to get on base any way I could. So I had to sacrifice power numbers to be a top-of-the-order guy and get on base. It’s not that I can’t do it. It’s more of me adjusting to the role of helping my team win.”

It’s clear he’s motivated to remove the label as a speed and defense player.

“That’s a stereotype that was put on me, but I strongly believe that I’m a good hitter,” he said. “I’m not going to stop working at it. I don’t have it all figured out. But I’m going to learn. I’m excited to work with the coaches to take my bat to the next level. I’m willing and eager to do that.”

He’s also eager to continue to use his profession as a baseball player to bring awareness to the disease that changed his family life.

“I think the platform of being a professional athlete changes it, and brings it to light a little more than it has been,” he said. “And that’s already been a great amount.”

After his mother was diagnosed, Bishop began writing “4MOM” on his arm before every game. He organized a fundraising dead-lift competition that helped raise $6,000. On Mother’s Day, with the help of Arizona’s Scott Kingery, the Huskies and Wildcats played a “4MOM” game in which players wrote the message on arms, helmets and wristbands.

“It’s very important to me,” he said. “My mom is my biggest advocate, and it’s tough to see her struggle, but it definitely put things in perspective for me. If I struggle, I know she’s going through a lot worse than I am.

“For me to bring this whole situation to light has been really important to me. It’s kept me going and provides motivation for me every day.”

The Mariners made eight selections Tuesday. Bishop was one of four position players selected, and four more right-handed pitchers were drafted to join the selections from Monday — fellow right-handed pitchers Nick Neidert (second round) and Andrew Moore (second-round competitive balance selection).

“We wanted pitching,” McNamara said. “There were a couple left-handers that we were right in on, but they were taken. We didn’t go in there saying, ‘Let’s take all right-handed pitching.’ It just worked out that way.”

Two of the right-handers were high-school players — Dylan Thompson (fourth round) and Cody Mobley (eighth round) — and join Neidert as young, hard throwers.

“The three high-school guys, I really think they can all be starting pitchers,” McNamara said. “Good deliveries, good arm action, good heads on their shoulders. I’m excited to see these guys develop.”

Mariners’ draft choices Tuesday (rounds 3-10)
Round (overall pick) Player, pos. School
3 (94) Braden Bishop, CF Washington
4 (125) Dylan Thompson, RHP Socastee High School (S.C.)
5 (155) Drew Jackson, SS Stanford
6 (185) Kyle Wilcox, RHP Bryant University
7 (215) Ryan Uhl, 1B Indiana U. of Pennsylvania
8 (245) Cody Mobley, RHP Mount Vernon (Ind.) High School
9 (275) Connor Hale, 1B/3B Louisiana State
10 (305) Darin Gillies, RHP Arizona State