Akron pitcher Chris Bassitt, a Genoa graduate, was drafted with the 501st overall pick in the 16th round by the Chicago White Sox on June 7. He will make his professional debut with the Bristol (Va.) Sox either today or tomorrow. He was second all-time at Akron in saves and had a career ERA of 2.29.
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As soon as he heard the shriek of excitement from his younger brother in the next room, pitcher Chris Bassitt knew he was going to be paid for playing a sport he loves.
Bassitt, a Genoa High School graduate, was selected in the 16th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Chicago White Sox on June 7.
"My first real job is playing baseball, which is ridiculous," he said. "I never would have guessed this would happen when I was younger."
Bassitt, a native of Curtice, recently wrapped up his junior season at the University of Akron. He served as the Zips' closing pitcher and earned All-Mid-American Conference second team.
Major league scouts took notice of Bassitt after he held opposing batters to a .183 batting average and posted an earned run average of 1.42.
Twenty seven of the 30 major league teams contacted Bassitt.
But it was Chris's brother Matt who was glued to the computer screen during the three days of the MLB draft.
"I was playing video games and he was on the computer," Bassitt said. "They put up picks about every 15 seconds. When he saw my name, he screamed. I was all smiles and my brother was jumping around like he was drafted. It was one of the top days of my life."
Featuring a slider, change up, and a fastball that clocks in between 90 to 95 miles per hour, he has built up a solid repertoire. At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, he also possesses intimidating size and unshakeable confidence.
Yet, Bassitt admitted that he expected to be selected before the 16th round rolled around. He was the 501st overall pick.
"But we were expecting something close to that range," Bassitt said. "I got the call and they asked me if I was ready to play pro baseball and obviously my answer was 'Yes!' immediately."
Chris's father John said he was following the draft online by an audio feed at the Bassitt home.
"I was excited as a father and proud of Chris," John Bassitt said. "I can't put it into words. It still hasn't sunk in."
Chris Bassitt said he didn't watch the draft as it was going on for two reasons.
"One was to avoid disappointment," he said. "I felt if I watched every round, I would have gone insane. It was best to go fishing or play basketball. I got out to keep my mind busy. It worked out for the best. I didn't lose my mind."
So those duties fell to his dad and brother Matt, who also was a pitcher for Genoa and was the starting quarterback for the Comet football team.
"I heard his name called," John Bassitt said.
"I was nervous and then excited for Chris. It was a day he was looking forward to, but I also was happy it was over."
Chris Bassitt said after the year he had this spring, he felt good that he would be drafted. He appeared in 28 games out of the bullpen and converted seven saves in seven opportunities. In 38 innings, he struck out 48.
"But it was hectic," he said. "It was a huge sigh of relief."
At Genoa, Chris Bassitt earned All-Suburban Lakes League first-team honors in both baseball and basketball as a senior.
The baseball team posted an overall record of 48-6 during junior and senior seasons and won back-to-back Suburban Lakes League titles.
He had a 1.56 ERA as a senior, striking out 65 batters in 58 innings.
A Zip with some zip
In his career at Akron, Bassitt tallied 14 saves, which is second highest on the Zips' career saves list. He struck out 84 batters in 70⅔ innings. His career ERA was 2.29. His 28 appearances for the Zips led the MAC this season.
John Bassitt said he is most excited that his son will now receive top-notch coaching. He said Chris already has the knack of keeping his composure as a closer.
"He has the ability to not get too high or low after a game. But he is intense on the field," John Bassitt said.
The magazine Baseball America said in its scouting report of Chris Bassitt that he "lives off his 90-93 mph [fast ball], which he delivers from a low-three-quarters arm angle. His second pitch is a slider, which grades as an average pitch at times."
Chris Bassitt is second all-time among Akron pitchers with 14 career saves for the Zips.
Prior to the draft, he conducted on-site workouts for three major league teams. He worked out in Atlanta for the Dodgers in late May, at Cincinnati for the Reds on June 1, and in Tampa for the Yankees on June 4.
"I did well," he said. "But it is hard to judge someone on a bullpen session."
He said he recalled talking briefly to a Chicago representative.
"We were definitely surprised about it being the White Sox," Bassitt said. "We had nine or 10 teams pinned down that had showed a lot of interest. The White Sox were not one of those teams.
"But that's the nature of the beast of the draft. No one knows what will happen. It's so, so random."
Two days after the draft, a White Sox official stood in the Bassitt home.
"The rep from the White Sox showed up, got Chris's signature, they shook hands, and he said, 'Welcome to the White Sox and here's your plane ticket to Virginia,'" John Bassitt said.
Poised for pro debut
Chris said he was told to immediately report to the White Sox's rookie club in Bristol, Va. The Bristol Sox play in the Appalachian League and the team is coached by Pete Rose, Jr., the son of the baseball legend.
Bassitt is expected to make his professional debut either Thursday or Friday.
He said the teams at that level do not have a definitive closer. He was told that he would not start, but would pitch out of the bullpen.
"It's more about getting innings and getting evaluated," Bassitt said.
He said White Sox officials told him it's possible he may skip levels as he moves up, but he also said they like to develop their players slowly.
"I could end up in AAA or even the major leagues this year," Bassitt said. "I know the percentages of that happening are very slim. But that would be the dream."
John Bassitt said part of the contract with the White Sox includes money that has been set aside so that Chris can complete his college education.
"So far he has excelled in each level he has gone to," John Bassitt said. "I have my fingers crossed that it continues."
Chris Bassitt said it was a difficult decision to give up his senior year at Akron.
"The day you sign a pro contract and you start getting paid, you lose all your eligibility," he said. "But I knew right when I got the call I was done [with college]. I talked to my parents and we agreed it was time to move on.
"Not too many people get this break and you have to chase it."
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com or 419-724-6354.
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