Even though he was pined after by multiple upper-echelon Division I programs as a five-tool outfielder, Hunter Bishop’s still just an 18-year-old kid.
He may have had opportunities to play both baseball and football at the next level, but Hunter Bishop’s still just a freshman.
Sure, the former Serra High Padre was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 24th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, as his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame had pro teams frothing at the mouth, but Hunter Bishop still eats in the dining hall and sleeps in a twin bed.
It’s necessary to remind oneself of Bishop’s newness to college baseball, because it’s tough to tell that he’s a 18-year-old freshman who eats in the dining hall when he’s on the field. A right-handed thrower who bats left-handed, Bishop played a critical role in ASU’s sweep over Long Beach State at Phoenix Municipal this weekend.
“First of all, he’s a physical beast,” head coach Tracy Smith said of Bishop. “But he’s kind of putting it together. I think sometimes when guys come from high school, it’s just different. It’s a different level. They’ve gotten by on talent alone to this point and he’s a perfect example. He’s done a really, really good job lately of understanding that you have to take an approach to the plate. There’s things they’re trying to get you to do, your habits in practice, all of those things.”
Starting on Sunday in the fifth spot of ASU’s lineup—marking the third consecutive start for the freshman and the first complete series he’s played—Bishop rewarded Smith’s vote of confidence by going 1-for-4 from the plate with a crucial at-bat in the third inning.
After ASU fell down 4-0 in the first frame, the Sun Devils pulled one run back in the second inning off a sacrifice fly and tagged Long Beach State starter John Castro for two more runs before Bishop came to the plate.
With two men on and a one-run deficit, Bishop roped a line drive down the first base line that caromed off the wall and resulted in a two-run triple. The clutch hit put ASU ahead 5-4, giving the Sun Devils a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
During Saturday’s tilt, the freshman only recorded two at-bats in his time at the plate as he was issued a walk and recorded a sacrifice fly. He brought home another run with a bases-loaded single.
Bishop’s first breakthrough as a collegian came on Friday, as he made only his fifth start of the season when Smith put him into the lineup in the seventh spot. But he quickly-acclimated to the Dirtbags pitching staff, and connected on his first home run of his collegiate career, crushing a slider off of Long Beach State’s Darren McCaughan over the right field barrier.
His home run—ASU’s first run of the night—helped to serve as a spark for the five-run comeback and eventual 10-inning win.
Having put together a complete series of production, Bishop’s only going to continue to improve as the season wears on. The freshman is batting .381 in the time he’s gotten thus far, and the strides he’s taken as of late project him to only earn more opportunities.
“We love the fact that he’s coming along because he adds an element of power and he’s the fastest guy on the baseball team too so if he can find himself in the lineup he can hurt you in multiple ways,” coach Smith said. “But it’s more been his growth over the past couple of weeks - he’s had a couple injuries he’s dealing with - but if he can settle in there and produce, whether it be with his legs or his bat, that makes Arizona State better.”
With conference play arriving this Thursday - as Oregon State comes to town for a three-game tilt - Bishop’s continued development will be paramount to ASU’s bats carrying their momentum into Pac-12 play.
He may be an 18-year-old who waits in the same line for his breakfast omelet as other ASU freshmen, but Hunter Bishop’s well on his way to much more than that.