Chris Bassitt knows all about being on the road.
Since graduating from Genoa High School in 2007 and then pitching at the University of Akron from 2008-11, the right-hander, 24, has played in Bristol, Va., Winston-Salem, N.C., Kannapolis, N.C., and then back in Winston-Salem before going to Birmingham, Ala.
He played in the Arizona Fall League with the Glendale Desert Dogs from late September through mid-November.
Such is the life of a minor league baseball player.
“It’s been different, I’ll tell you that,” said Bassitt, who was drafted out of Akron by the Chicago White Sox in the 16th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. “I expected it, to a certain extent. The travel might be a little worse than what I thought. In the higher levels, the travel gets worse.
“In rookie ball the drives aren’t that far, a couple hours. In Double-A, you’re driving 12 to 15 hours to places. You’re getting out of a game at 11 p.m., showering and then you’re on a bus until 8 in the morning. Then you have to play that day.”
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Bassitt, an All-Mid-American Conference selection in 2011, isn’t complaining. He’s merely doing what thousands of other minor league players have been doing for years – pursuing his dream. By any means necessary.
Bassitt’s current team is the Birmingham Barons, of the Southern League (Double-A). He started eight games for the Barons in 2013 and went 4-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 47.2 innings, with 37 strikeouts and 17 walks.
“I was with them the second half of the season,” Bassitt said. “The first half I was in Winston-Salem and did pretty well (7-2, 3.46 ERA, 101 strikeouts in 101 innings).
He helped Birmingham win its seventh Southern League championship, starting Game 1 in the five-game semifinal round against the Tennessee Smokies and then starting Game 1 of the five-game series against the Mobile BayBears.
“I did really well,” Bassitt said. “I gave up one run in 13 innings and had 15 or 16 strikeouts. My body was holding up well and I was confident in myself going into it. It’s a matter of showing up and proving what you’ve got.”
After the Barons’ successful season, Bassitt was assigned to the Arizona Fall League and was on the same Glendale team as former Clay and Michigan State standout pitcher A.J. Achter. Bassitt, who pitched in relief at Akron and in rookie ball and Single-A ball, became a starter the second half of last year and did “OK.”
He moved back to relief with the Desert Dogs and pitched 10 innings in 10 games and had a 0.90 ERA,with nine strikeouts and eight walks.
“They (White Sox) decided to make me a starter again and I started all this year, and then my innings (pitched) got too high,” Bassitt said. “They said they wanted me to be a reliever in the fall league.”
Bassitt is getting some much needed time off over the Christmas holiday. He said he’ll be relaxing at home in Curtice until mid-February, then head to spring training in Glendale, Ariz., with the White Sox.
“Pitchers and catchers report for big-league camp,” Bassitt said. “I don’t know if I’m going to that yet. I should, but I really don’t know. My innings this year were double than ever before. I was tired at the end of this year, so I’m glad to have some time off. I’ll still work out and start throwing pretty soon. You kind of want to stay away from it after six or seven months in a row. The more time you stay away from it (in the offseason), the better you are during the season.”
Bassitt said the two-seam fastball is probably his best pitch. He also throws a four-seam fastball, curve, slider and change-up.
“I throw the two-seam around 91-95 (mph) and I have a lot of movement on it,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to hit.”
Bassitt added that the White Sox have told him they are pleased with his performance.
“They’re very happy with what’s going on,” he said. “They said they see me as big-leaguer out of the bullpen. I’m starting right now because you get more opportunities to develop your pitches. They’ve told me they like what they see and to keep doing what I do. I have full faith in them. I believe in them.”
But again, the daily grind of a minor league ball player can take its toll. Bassitt admitted that he will “reassess what I’m doing after next season.”
“Next year is my ‘protection’ year, when you come off your minor league contract that you sign initially,” he said. “I’ll be 25, and you can only do it for so long before you say, ‘right now I’m spinning my wheels.’ ”