Seattle Mariners

Mariners outfielder Braden Bishop bonds with teammates as their trusted barber

The baseball season is winding down in Seattle. Boxes have been strewn throughout the Mariners’ clubhouse since the team arrived home Tuesday for this final week-long homestand. Players have started to pack up their lockers in waves, looking forward to an offseason that hopefully leads to more club success next year.

But, as they store away spare clothing, shoes and bobbleheads, among other things, for moving, there’s one thing rookie outfielder Braden Bishop will surely keep on hand until the end.

Tucked in his locker, which is situated in the back corner between Mitch Haniger’s and rookie Dylan Moore’s, Bishop houses a silver case. It’s small and unassuming, but holds the tools — a black and white cape, clippers, combs, scissors and more — Bishop has used to build relationships this season as the team’s trusted player barber.

“I think the one nice part about the barber shop, and why I love doing this so much, is because people trust you in ways they might not in other relationships,” Bishop said. “I feel like it’s a pretty intimate relationship between barber and client.”

As these last few games are played out, Bishop hasn’t yet broken from his daily routine. Much like his teammates, the 26-year-old pulls up to the ballpark long before the gates open, participates in pregame field workouts and batting practice, and attends the usual set of meetings to prepare for the night’s opponent.

And, if there’s time before, after or in between all of that, he will make sure to fit in some haircuts.

Wednesday afternoon, about six hours before the Mariners played the Houston Astros, he set up in T-Mobile Park’s designated shop — a small, stone room with a barber’s chair and a wall-length mirror, located on the field level just outside the doors leading into the Mariners’ clubhouse.

It was his first time using this room — when the team is home, he generally works from the clubhouse bathroom, and when they’re on the road, he generally sets up in his hotel room — but he tossed his case on the counter top, swung the cape over rookie reliever Reggie McClain, grabbed his chosen pair of clippers and got right to work. McClain is one of his regulars.

“Braden first cut me in 2017 back in Modesto,” McClain said. “It’s just convenient. I’d say that’s the main thing. (He’s) right there. Somebody easy that you can come to every day.”

Since joining the Mariners in June, Bishop supposes he’s cut the hair of at least half of the record-breaking amount of players — the Mariners have used 67 this season — who have funneled through the clubhouse, from his roommate Tim Lopes, to J.P. Crawford, to veterans like Dee Gordon and Wade LeBlanc, and many, many more.

He’s been able to consistently bond with them as their teammate barber, even when his season was sidetracked for more than two months while recovering from a lacerated spleen.

“That relationships (are) nice,” Bishop said. “It (was) definitely nice when I was hurt and on the IL, to still be able to connect with teammates.”

Many have seen him multiple times, and said they would recommend him to a friend. On this Wednesday, he has several waiting for a spruce up, but he’s focused on making sure McClain looks sharp before moving on.

Bishop said he’s cut most types of hair — “Everybody’s head is so different,” he said. “That’s the cool part. Learning different hairstyles” — and can clean up facial hair, like McClain’s full beard, as well. McClain knows there are others in line, though, so he asks Bishop to just line him up, and he’ll do the rest.

“You’ve got more heads to get,” McClain said. “I’ll keep it moving for you.”

Minutes later he hops out of the chair, ready for pregame workouts, and to head to the bullpen and wait for his name to be called.

“Ready to go finish this thing out,” McClain said.

While waiting for his next appointment to arrive, Bishop details the different combs he has in his case — a smaller comb best used for fading, and a bigger one best for when he’s cutting longer hair — the scissors, and the razors. He has two sets of clippers — his preferred set that plugs into the wall, but also a cordless set in case there’s no outlet available — and all of the necessary attachments. And, of course, a brush to clear off any stray hairs, alcohol and everything else needed to clean up when he’s finished.

He learned to cut hair when he was 19. Near the end of his freshman season at Washington, he tore his UCL and left thumb sliding into a base, and couldn’t participate in baseball activities for about eight weeks.

He was back home in California after the season, not doing much, and his dad, Randy, nudged him to get out of the house. Bishop said he wasn’t interested in pursuing any summer internships, so he went a different route. He approached a friend’s stepdad, Damien Dendy, who works at a barber shop near Stanford, about learning the trade.

“I wound up going to my best friend’s step dad and being like, ‘Hey, can you just teach me how to cut hair? I love hanging out in here. It has great vibes,’ ” Bishop said. “I wound up cutting that whole summer. I cut all my friends that would come in.”

Dendy taught him the basics, Bishop studied videos on Instagram and YouTube to learn more specifics, and brought this newfound skill back with him to UW. When teammates started to look raggedy, he’d fix them up.

“When I was in college, getting a nice haircut wasn’t something baseball players did,” he said. “Now it’s obviously more part of the game. You see guys having pretty unique hairstyles. I enjoy it. Especially seeing my work on other guys’ heads.”

Though, when he wrapped up his three seasons with the Huskies, and was drafted in the third round by the Mariners in 2015, he wasn’t so sure he wanted to be the go-to barber for his teammates.

“When I got drafted by the Mariners, I went to Everett and my roommate at the time, Drew Jackson — who’s with the Dodgers (organization) now — we had known each other growing up, and he knew I cut hair,” Bishop said.

“I was like, ‘You know, I don’t want to cut hair. I don’t want to be that guy who’s in the bathroom cutting hair.’ And he convinced me to cut his hair at our host family’s house, and then the next thing I know, I’m cutting everybody’s hair in the bathroom.”

But, he acknowledged the situation has worked out well. Like so many other college baseball players, his scholarship at UW was partial, and the money he made cutting teammates’ hair helped cover some living costs.

The same was true when he played in the low minors, where players are paid far less then their major league counterparts. Some players get odd jobs — like driving Uber or coaching kids at pitching or hitting facilities — in addition to their daily baseball work, to help with costs.

For Bishop, the side job has always been cutting hair, whether he was with Short-A Everett, High-A Modesto, Double-A Arkansas or Triple-A Tacoma. At one point, he said he even had a barber’s chair in his college apartment.

“I actually made more money cutting hair than I did playing, just because guys get a haircut, and a week later they want another one,” Bishop said. “It was good. It helped me pay for my groceries in college, and provided some extra money for food in the minor leagues.”

He’s never charged specific prices — “I know guys come from a different spectrum of finances, especially when I was in college to where I’m at now, so it’s usually just whatever you feel,” he said — and the biggest reward seems to be helping teammates continue to look fresh.

When rookie reliever Zac Grotz walked in for his turn moments after McClain left, he spotted the cameras and jokingly asked Bishop if being filmed giving haircuts would get him more clients.

But, Bishop might not need more. Between teammates, some coaches, some opposing players on road trips and family — he also gives haircuts to his brother Hunter, an outfielder in San Francisco’s organization, when he sees him — he sees his share of clients each week. Most become his clients the same way — by word of mouth.

“He was just talking about it one day,” said rookie Shed Long, who had Bishop cut his mohawk back in Tacoma, and is another regular. “I don’t let just anybody cut my hair. They were just saying he was pretty good.

“I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to give you one chance. You’re either going to be my barber for the year, or you’re never going to cut my hair again.’ ”

Long laughed, as did Bishop when he heard the retelling of that story.

“I cut it, and haven’t stopped cutting it since,” Bishop said.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.
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