ACUSHNET — It may have been the Second Annual DJ Bishop Baseball Classic, but it marked the first time Bishop was able to attend.

A year ago, he was still hospitalized, recovering from surgery to stabilize his neck vertebrae after a diving accident over the Memorial Day weekend in 2016 resulted in fractures at the C4, C5 and C6 levels.

It's been a long, slow road from that moment thus far. When he was initially injured, he could only shrug his shoulders. Now, almost 15 months later, with the help of occupational therapy, physical therapy, the Journey Forward program and hard work, he has some movement in his arms.

On Saturday morning, he got to see former teammates from Little League, Pony League, Dartmouth High School, American Legion, Westfield State University and the Acushnet Aztecs of the Cranberry League, who came to honor him at Pope Park. They were joined by friends, relatives and those simply touched by his story.

Just like a year ago, there were five teams, each of which paid $25 to play. Each team played two games of four innings or 45 minutes, whichever came first, with a playoff at the end.

The only negative was the weather. An overnight downpour made the Pope Park baseball field a quagmire. No amount of work would make it playable, so the games switched to the drier Little League field next door, where slow-pitch softball games with wooden bats broke out.

“It's really humbling,” DJ said from his chair stationed down the left field line. “I'm so grateful for every fundraising event that has been held for me over the past year and three months, but this is special. I love playing baseball and it's really cool that all these guys come together for me.

“I've met a lot of good people in my baseball career. I was always a hard worker. I never took a play off. I was always a hyped-up player and, just being around it, puts a smile on my face.”

Build it and they will come

Much like the Field of Dreams movie, they have came from all over in support of their injured friend.

Joe Alibrandi, of Quincy, and Andrew Kinney, from Franklin, were DJ's roommates at Westfield State. Alibrandi played shortstop on the baseball team with Bishop. Kinney never played baseball. They and six others rented a house off campus for a year.

“I've tried to stay close with DJ and see him about two times a month," said Alibrandi, who is now a senior at Curry College.

Kinney, who graduated from Westfield in May, went to high school with Bob Chaiton, a baseball player from Franklin, who introduced him to many of Westfield's ballplayers.

“I hung out with Bob and the other kids on the baseball team and we got the house together,” Kinney said. “I never played baseball, but now I'm a softball player. DJ and I were physical education majors. He was always active and going to the gym. He was outgoing, fun and had lots of friends.”

Chris Hartnett, a 2013 Westport High graduate and 2017 graduate from the engineering school at UMass Amherst, was there.

“I played Little League with DJ in Westport,” said Hartnett, who was better known for his basketball ability in high school. “I haven't played baseball since my freshman year in high school, but this is such a great cause, I had to be here.”

Alex Ried, DJ's cousin, brought a group of players from Fall River. A 2012 Durfee graduate, Ried played in the game last year.

“I was a little rusty and didn't hit anything,” he said. With the switch to softball, he made contact and got a hit in the first game.

Ried graduated from UMass with a major in history. He is attending law school at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.

He is also playing with a prosthetic left leg.

“I was born missing the fibula bone in my leg,” Ried said. “I was fitted for a prosthetic at about a year and a half, so I always grew up with it."

Chris Martin, a classmate of DJ's at Dartmouth High, helped with the logistics of the games.

“I read about DJ's accident three or four days later on Facebook and, to say the least, it was a shock,” Martin said. “He's been home for about six months and has made slow, but steady, progress.

“At Dartmouth High, he was a friggin' hard worker. He was a good player who worked hard and we used to train in the off-season in the gym. There's a bunch of kids from Dartmouth, a lot from Westfield State and the Acushnet Aztecs. There's a big mix of players from everywhere.”

Adam Carreiro played baseball with Bishop at Dartmouth High, although he was a year ahead of him.

“DJ was a great teammate,” Carreiro said. “He was the type of leader on the field by example. In Legion, as he became older, he was more of a rah-rah guy.

“When we heard about the accident, Josh Sullivan and I — we were the two captains on the high school baseball team — realized that we were all teammates and wanted to do something. What better way than to play baseball?”

Sullivan has moved to Texas to take a journalism job, so Carreiro looked for help with the game and found Andrew Burdick, a close friend of Bishop.

“I connected with Andrew through Facebook, got his phone number and we worked to put together the details,” said Carreiro, who graduated with bachelor and master degrees from Bentley.

“I've been friends with DJ nine to 10 years now,” Burdick said. “We started hanging out in middle school. I played Little League baseball and we were opponents, but we shared the same seventh grade block and became friends. Josh and Adam put the games together last year and I helped with financing.”

Another friend, Brady Robinson, was visiting at DJ's house Friday night when a call came in that one team was a player short. Robinson was not a baseball player, but volunteered to play.

He left the house, went out and bought his first baseball glove.

A full-time job

It's been 14½ months since DJ's accident, but the 23-year-old former baseball player has approached his rehabilitation like he did his baseball — all out.

“I go to Journey Forward in Canton, an intense exercise program specific for people who suffered spinal cord injuries or a stroke,” Bishop explained. “It's neuro training to retrain your muscles.

“I have an FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation) bike at home. It has 12 channels.”

That is, 12 places where his legs are stimulated by a low-level shock that causes the muscles to contract so they don't atrophy.

“I'm going to start a rowing program at the Spaulding Hospital Rehab in Cambridge, three times a week, later in August,” DJ said. “I'm trying to work out four hours a day. This (motorized) wheelchair has a stand so I can stand with its support. That helps with bone density and weight bearing.”

Every day there is the commute to Canton or Cambridge or both the same day.

“There is nothing in this area that is spinal cord therapy specific,” DJ said. “The man who started Journey Forward was paralyzed, but not as severely as I was. He went to California and was able to walk again in seven years. He came back to Massachusetts and wanted to know how Boston can be the center of all these medical facilities and not have a spinal cord specific place, so he started one.”

Trying to do it all – again

Bishop was able to watch a couple of Aztecs games this summer and last Saturday went to a Red Sox game with six friends.

“Monday through Friday, I'm driving to therapy and working out, but on weekends I try to get out with friends,” Bishop said. “I went to see the Sox-Yankees and was allowed on the field to watch the Yankees take batting practice. I saw Aaron Judge hit and he was so fluid. Of 10 pitches in one group, he hit eight way out of the park."

The next item on his bucket list — sky diving.

“The planes are a little bigger with a harness for me," he said. "I was scheduled to go 10 days after the accident and I wanted to do it this year. They have a safe way for me to do it, so I'm down. Me and Alex (Ried) are going. My mom's (Susan) not too hot about me going. She says I'm giving her more gray hairs.”

As he looked around at his Pope Park surroundings, DJ was brought back to his youth.

“When I was younger, I played a lot in this complex,” he said. “I played on that (baseball) field with the Aztecs. This is one of my favorite places to be.

“I know this is the second annual game and I hope it keeps going. I'm very thankful to Adam, Andrew, my family and my friends."