Multiple influences helped Bassitt reach the pinnacle

J. Patrick Eaken

It is nearly impossible to identify all the local influences behind the development of Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Chris Bassitt.

You can credit his teammates and coaches at Genoa High School or the University of Akron, his youth coaches in Genoa, his travel baseball coaches, Toledo Hawks summer collegiate coach Ed Mouch when Bassitt’s team qualified for the National Amateur Baseball Federation College World Series, other summer college coaches, and of course, the community, Bassitt’s family and friends. 

Some, like brothers Gary and Lee Nissen, Danny Clayton, or Ron Rightnowar, still take advantage of every opportunity they get to watch Bassitt play in person.

“I was awkwardly blessed to have the coaches in Genoa. The coaches I have, they would be considered mean or too hard (today). To this day, when I come home, I’m going to see them. My love for them, that hasn’t changed,” Bassitt told The Press.

“When I played for them, it was a grind. If you messed up, you got chewed out. It was a different day and age when adults were allowed to ‘adult’ kids. We not only embraced it, we kind of thrived because of it. The thing is, I couldn’t go and run home to mom and dad. (My parents) knew the coaches I had and respected them,” Bassitt continued.

Bassitt, who graduated from Genoa in 2007, was part of a very successful class on the playing fields.

“We had 10 to 12 college athletes in my class — guys like Adam Shumacher, Ryan Gargas, Sam Pinkerton, Cory Hornyak, Nick Perdue and Kurt Wolff. Our parents were similar. They were always tough on us.

“The coaches wanted the best for us. People don’t understand that nowadays, people having that tough love. I don’t think people realize how important that is — they’re going to be offended or scared. I could handle it when I was young. Now, I’m thriving at 30 because ever since then, I’ve been trained for this moment,” continued Bassitt in his talk to The Press three years ago.

Bassitt wants to be a role model for people like himself, born and raised in a small unincorporated hamlet like Curtice.

“I kind of talked about that when I went to Akron and first got drafted. I used the platform I have to hopefully pave the way. The way that the world is today, you can be found,” he said. “I hope people can look at me and see that it’s a realistic dream. You definitely have a legitimate chance to do what we do. You can find some serious talent — look at (NFL lineman) Michael Dieter. It’s not just another small town in Ohio. There’s not a reason why you should not shoot for the very top.”


Add another twist

There is one twist that is not so obvious, and that is how he ended up at the University of Akron. Playing at an NCAA Division I school improved his chances of getting noticed by professional scouts.

While a youth, former University of Akron coach Pat Bangston played for a team coached by Rick Briggle, who would later become athletic director at Genoa High School. Briggle and Clayton, who was Bassitt’s high school coach his junior and senior year, lobbied to Bangston that Bassitt could be a valuable recruit.

“I played for coach Briggle when I was 15-years-old,” said Bangston, who grew up in Talmage, Ohio and played high school baseball at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. “He had picked me up from another team. I was playing in a tournament when I was 15 and we played against coach Briggle’s team, and we lost and they won, and he picked me up to go to a separate tournament down in West Virginia. 

“So I have stayed in contact with him over the years when I quit playing and when I got into coaching at Ohio State, he would recommend players to me every so often. When I was at Akron, I went out there and coach Briggle spoke highly of the family and obviously Chris as a person. I evaluated him and said, ‘Boy, there is a lot of talent here. It is just that we have to harness it.’”

Bangston went on to play collegiately at Kent State University and then five years in the Minnesota Twins minor league system. Of course, when Bangston recruited Bassitt, there was no way of knowing where the Curtice native would be at today. Bassitt made his first MLB all-star game appearance Tuesday night, taking the mound for one inning.

“You never see the ability of an all-star at that level. Chris, to his credit, put a ton of work in. Coach Briggle had recommended him to me, and I came out and saw him pitching for a few innings and I’m like, ‘Boy, there is a lot to work with here,’ To his credit, he put a ton of work into his mechanics, his mental toughness and things like that to help him succeed, and he’s been wonderful,” Bangston said.

“I’m excited for Chris and he deserves all the accolades he can get. He’s a good person and comes from a wonderful family. When you are an old coach, those are great stories to talk about.”

Briggle emailed The Press that his “history with the former Zips coach is nothing but positive and I can vouch for his character, integrity, and his sincere pride in Chris’s accomplishments. It’s what retired coaches do. The kid from the small town of Curtice has made it big. If it can happen to kids like Chris, it can happen to anyone...ask Michael Dieter. 

“When no other serious offers came Chris’s way his senior year, coach Bangston stepped up, drove from Akron to Genoa and then signed him at Akron. The rest is history as it is currently being written,” Briggle continued. (— includes file copy by Press contributing writer Yaneek Smith)









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