Bassitt’s all-star appearance completes rise to notoriety

By: 
J. Patrick Eaken

Once the MLB All-Star Game was in the books Tuesday, Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Chris Bassitt tweeted, “This is the greatest sport on earth. Grateful to just be part of it.”

It may appear that Bassitt’s rise to stardom as sudden, but for the Curtice native and 2007 Genoa High School graduate, it has been years in the making. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Bassitt is now 32-years-old and has spent a decade playing professionally.

“It hasn’t really set in on me. I haven’t really thought about that whole dynamic because from my standpoint things have changed very slowly, but obviously from everyone else’s standpoint it is a massive difference,” Bassitt told The Press Wednesday afternoon.

“Trust me, I understand the intensity of that and how rare it is. I’m just trying to kind of live in the moment as it is now and then relish those things until all is said and done and everything is over with.”

The son of John and Dawn Bassitt, Bassitt was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 16th round out of the University of Akron in 2011 and made his Major League debut in 2014. Since becoming a professional he has undergone and recovered from Tommy John surgery, but says when healthy his fastball can reach 95 miles per hour. 

Bassitt has been steadily productive since reaching the Majors with the Chicago White Sox in 2014, posting a career 3.55 ERA — and has only one season with an ERA above 4.00. From 2016-18, he threw only 75.2 innings, with the surgery wedged in the middle of it.

But since then, he’s emerged as one of Oakland’s best arms, and now he’s receiving league wide recognition for it.

“A lot’s been documented on where he’s come from in his career to where he is now,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He was pretty emotional after his first shutout, leading the way as a starter the last year and a half. This kind of culminates all that hard work and perseverance. To make an all-star team’s a special day.”

Bassitt’s college coach at the University of Akron, Pat Bangston, says the Curtice native never gave up on making his dream come true.

“Good things happen to good people who work hard and I couldn’t be happier for him,” Bangston said. “He was just a wonderful young man to work with during his time at Akron. It’s an incredible achievement. I know he has put up with a lot of adversity. He’s obviously reached one of the pinnacles of our sport.”

Bangston said it is always hard to measure how far a player will go even when he is a college standout. 

“The best thing I can say about Chris is that the toughest thing you can do, and you can ask any college coach, — I don’t care what sport — is we all can go watch a baseball game and ideally evaluate and project to a certain point,” Bangston said. 

“The toughest thing to evaluate is what is in their heart and their intestinal fortitude, and boy, Chris exceeded at all levels and it has obviously proven itself with his accomplishments at a professional level. He did that at Akron U, too. He was a great teammate, guys looked up to him, wanted him on the field. Obviously, the Oakland A’s are receiving the benefits of that right now.”

 

Dealing with nerves

In the all-star game pitching in front of millions of television viewers, Bassitt took the mound in the bottom of the sixth and got Brandon Crawford (San Fransisco Giants) to pop out to third, Justin Turner (Los Angeles Dodgers) to ground out to second, but then Manny Machado (San Diego Padres) singled to right center field. 

Bassitt walked Jake Cronenworth (Padres) and Juan Soto (Washington Nationals), loading the bases with two outs and the American League ahead, 5-1.

Bassitt threw a breaking pitch that bounced off Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino’s glove and Machado scored the National League’s second run, but it was unearned.

With the NL threatening for more with two outs and two runners on, Bassitt reached back on what was his 24th pitch of the inning and fired a 92.7 miles per hour fastball that was swung through by the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant to end the sixth and cap Bassitt’s appearance in the game. The AL went on to win, 5-2.

On Wednesday, before heading back to Oakland, Bassitt admitted to The Press that his nerves were “just a little bit” rocky and a day later he was finally starting “to settle down.”

“It was awesome. It was so much more (about) don’t get hurt because I was pitching on just short rest. It was one of those experiences you just won’t forget,” Bassitt said.

Bassitt was a late all-star replacement for injured Cleveland Indians pitcher Shane Bieber. Bassitt started the previous Sunday for Oakland in a 4-1 win over Texas in Arlington. Bassitt tossed seven strong innings while striking out three batters and allowing only one run en route to his 10th victory of the season.

The Athletics were OK with Bassitt pitching in Tuesday’s all-star game if an opportunity arose, and Bassitt wasn’t going to give up on the opportunity either. He said it was self-assuring for him to be with the game’s best players at Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies, in Denver.

“Obviously the goal is to be one of the best in the game and when you are in that game it kind of solidifies a little bit that you are in that category,” Bassitt said. “The hard work is paying off and that was a feather in the cap type of thing. It is definitely cool to look around and see basically the best players in the world at something.” 

This year with the A’s, Bassitt is 10-2 with 118 strikeouts, 29 walks, and he has allowed 95 hits and 43 earned runs in 118 innings for a 3.28 ERA in 19 starts. Over his last 15 starts, he is 9-0 with 99 strikeouts, 99 walks and a 3.01 ERA.

Last year, Bassitt earned his first MLB playoff win over the Chicago White Sox in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series. He allowed one run on six hits and one walk while striking out five over seven innings.

The 2019 season began with Bassitt landing a spot in the A’s starting rotation mostly due to injuries. It ended with him ranking among the game’s elite. His 2.29 ERA over 11 starts was third lowest among AL starters. In four September starts, Bassitt went 3-0 with a 0.34 ERA, allowing just one run, with 25 strikeouts over 26.2 innings.

That year, Bassitt went 10-5 with a 3.81 ERA. He started 25 games, pitched in 28, and had 141 strikeouts in 144 innings with a WHIP of 1.19.  (— includes copy from a mlb.com writers Jordan Horrobin and Martin Gallegos with permission)

 

 

 

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