Bishop's Golden Arm
- Published on Friday, 04 May 2012 12:00
- Written by Anna James
"It definitely felt surreal, I had no idea I was going to win it", said Bishop. "When they were giving out the awards, all I could think about was sleep - which says how surprised I was when I heard my name being called out. At the awards ceremony, the entire night, I was in disbelief, but very happy with winning the award."
For decades in Australia, the prestigious Golden Arm Award has highlighted the players to watch in the future. Liam Hendricks, a three-time Golden Arm recipient from the Australian Schoolboys competition, was on the Minnesota Twins Opening Day roster for this year's Major League Baseball season.
The path from obscurity to honours was relatively short for the Wellington righty whose career began this year in March at the New Zealand National Club Championships, where Bishop pitched for his home Wellington Senators Baseball team. Bishop's trip to Adelaide over Easter brought his career total to eight games, making the award even more significant; he was in contention with seasoned players, some who play in the Australian Baseball League.
The gifted young ballplayer is the latest prodigy to find his feet out of the tight-knit Bishop family; younger brother Te Wera made headlines in 2011 where he was scouted by Jon Deeble, a Golden Arm recipient in 1984, and was signed with the Boston Red Sox organisation.
Baseball critics voiced their scepticism about the selection of the little known Kiwi "The combination of softball plus New Zealand does not equal MLB" one fan wrote online. Te Wera is working hard currently in his second season in the US, knowing that his success combined with the rapid rise of his brother Sam, will go towards silencing their detractors.
With baseball an emerging sport in New Zealand, and only a few New Zealanders in the Minor Leagues, playing professional baseball didn't appear to be a realistic dream for a young Bishop to form.
"Our family has always been a softball family. Playing baseball for us was something we did in the backyard for fun we never thought we would actually play baseball on a diamond. It was something I thought about though as a kid pitching against my brothers in the backyard. We would pretend we were our favourite teams in the Majors and play quite seriously."
Baseball in the Bishop household is still very much a family affair. "We're all learning things together" Bishop said. "Whenever we play I always want to do better than all my brothers, so I try my best to out hit them or have a great game for that one-upmanship. We all try to do our best, which makes us play better."
Sam certainly doesn't have to look far for advice; in addition to father Leslie who is his softball coach, Te Wera also shares his experience from his time the US. "He always tries to mentor me, especially when we are training in baseball, even if I already know it, he likes to keep teaching me what he learns, so it's all cool. You never know, he might tell me something that could change my game completely."
Brother Dave, the eldest of the six Bishop children, is the President of Baseball Wellington and another trusted adviser on Bishop's game.
Bishop doesn't seem to have suffered from the transition from softball to baseball, in fact, he has been credited for his slider, the product of watching "too much baseball" on television.
"They would show how some pitchers threw theirs so I would copy and it was just repetition in the backyard where I - I wouldn't say perfected, but got better at throwing it. So lots of baseball and lots of working at it."
Adjusting his technique was only one component of playing this new game. "In softball we would always joke around especially during the games but you were expected to turn it on when you were involved like hitting or fielding."
The competition in Adelaide was the toughest he'd experienced, but was a welcome breath of fresh air. "Now that I am actually playing baseball it just gets me excited to play something different than softball, but softball will still be a sport I love to play - it's just that I've been playing it for so long, a change of scenery is pretty cool."
In the final stages of his degree in Applied Business Studies, Bishop has plenty on his plate - his plan baseball-wise is to "go with the flow" this year.
"I would definitely like to give baseball a good shot and if opportunity arose where that could happen, I would seriously give it a go" the young star says, with the quiet confidence that the chance to play professional baseball will knock on the Bishop household once again.
By Anna James | Email Anna
Anna James is a a Sydney born journalist, based in Brisbane. Follow her on Twitter @missannajames
This story was not subject to the approval of Baseball New Zealand or its affiliates.