The Press Newspaper
Chris Bassitt is 6-foot-5, weighs 205 pounds and throws a 95-mph fastball to set up his slider and changeup.
What major league team wouldn't want to draft a pitcher with those attributes?
Turned out, the Chicago White Sox liked what they saw and heard about Bassitt, the former Genoa standout who was set to enter his senior season at the University of Akron.
The White Sox made Bassitt their 16th-round selection, with the 501st pick, on the second day of the three-day Major League Draft on June 7.
“My favorite team is the Yankees,” said Bassitt, a right-handed reliever. “I didn't care if it was the Yankees that drafted me or the Dodgers. I would have been happy with any team. I was not having a mindset going in saying, 'man, I hope this team drafts me.' I was just hoping to get drafted.”
As a redshirt junior at Akron this season, Bassitt had a 2-5 record with seven saves and a 1.42 ERA. He made 28 appearances and pitched 38 innings, allowing 24 hits with 15 walks and 48 strikeouts.
As a redshirt freshman in 2009 he made 23 appearances and went 1-2 with seven saves and a 3.52 ERA in 30.2 innings, allowing 19 hits and 14 walks with 34 strikeouts. Bassitt held opposing batters to a .184 average, which ranked fifth among pitchers in the Mid-American Conference.
Bassitt, 22, is the first University of Akron baseball player to get drafted since Doug McNulty and Tom Farmer in 2008. McNulty, a first baseman, was drafted by the New York Mets in the 49th round; Farmer, a pitcher, was drafted by the Minnesota Twins with the 1,410th pick.
Bassitt is Akron's highest MLB pick since 2003, when pitcher Aaron Gangi was drafted in the 14th round by Tampa Bay.
The White Sox assigned Bassitt to their rookie-league affiliate, the Bristol (Va.) White Sox, right after the draft. Bassitt arrived in Virginia on June 13. Bristol, a member of the Appalachian League, is managed by Pete Rose, Jr. Its first game is June 21, and Bassitt said he will be active for the opener.
“I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life,” he said. “It's going to be a little different. In a month I'll be in much better shape than I am now. For the most part, I feel like I'm ready to get going right away.”
“He was always a decent pitcher,” John said, “but over the summer between his junior and senior year he grew five inches. The first game of his senior season they were playing Start and it was supposed to be (Rich) Harbinger's 300th (coaching) win. Chris goes and throws a one-hitter against them and we win the game. There was an Akron coach at the game who was actually just there to see friends or family. I don't believe he was there scouting. He asked, ‘Who was this kid who just pitched against Start?’ and it just went from there. If it wouldn't have been for that one game and that one coach being there, Chris probably wouldn't have played baseball (in college). Throughout baseball season no other school recruited him.”
Bassitt earned first-team All-Suburban Lakes League and all-district honors as a senior after earning honorable mention Division III All-Ohio honors in basketball for coach Jeff Overmyer's Comets.
Basketball, in fact, remains Bassitt's favorite sport.
“I'd rather be in the NBA,” he said. “I've always loved basketball. Baseball has grown on me a ton, but I always grew up with basketball and I liked playing it. I was good at baseball and here I am now doing it.”
Bassitt averaged more than 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game as a senior.
“He became more athletic between his sophomore and junior year,” Overmyer said. “Chris as a sophomore for us was still pretty awkward. He was still growing into his body. You could see the athleticism and potential was there, it was just a matter of him catching up to his growth spurt. His junior year, the potential for him to be a great athlete was evident.”
“It was a very hectic day for Chris,” John said. “He was at home playing video games with his brother, trying to unwind. They were listening to the draft on MLB.com. I heard Matt yell that the White Sox just drafted him. Matt is Chris' No. 1 fan. I think for Chris it was somewhat relief and excitement and probably later a little nervousness. It's a big, big step.”
Bassitt said the draft started at noon on June 7 and he found out the White Sox selected him between 4:30-5 p.m. that day.
“It pops on the screen and then I got calls from my agent (Joe Bick) and from the White Sox organization,” he said. “They were saying, 'Congratulations, we picked you in this round.' The first question the White Sox guy asked was are you ready to be a professional. Obviously the answer was yes.
“I was super excited and a tad bit nervous, but at the same time I'm very anxious to get out there and prove myself. I went into this year with the mindset that this is my goal, I'm going to get drafted. It was kind of surreal. Coming from a small town, I never really grew up with intentions to be a professional athlete and now it actually happened. It was kind of a shock to me. I didn't really know how to take it. I think Matt was more excited than I was. He was jumping around and calling everybody.”
Bick, who served as Bassitt's adviser prior to the draft, was certain Bassitt would get drafted but by what team and in what round was an unknown. In the weeks leading up to the draft, Bassitt participated in tryouts in Atlanta, for the Dodgers, in Cincinnati for the Reds and in Tampa, Fla., for the Yankees.
“We were thinking anywhere from round 7-20,” Bassitt said. “It fell in that range. Every draft person wants to go sooner than what they got drafted, unless you're the very first pick in the draft. Eight or nine teams had a lot of interest. Coincidentally, the White Sox weren't one of them.”
Bassitt said seeing his name chosen was like a dream come true. Sort of.
“It wasn't even a dream,” he said, “for the simple fact that growing up there was no one I could look at and say, 'this is a possibility.' It was more of a dream after I went to college. That's when I thought it could be a possibility.”
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