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Former Athletics’ pitcher Chris Bassitt has the dirt on the Coliseum, and he’ll never forget it

Former Athletics’ pitcher Chris Bassitt has the dirt on the Coliseum, and he’ll never forget it

OAKLAND — Chris Bassitt was in no hurry to vacate the premises Sunday at the Coliseum, spending considerable pregame time chatting with A’s television analyst Dallas Braden on the grass along the third base line, with former teammate Seth Brown and manager Mark Kotsay coming over to say hello.

Bassitt had already pitched Friday night for the Toronto Blue Jays in the series opener, giving up four hits and one earned run in eight innings, a game the A’s won in the bottom of the ninth 2-1 on a first-pitch home run by JJ Bleday.

Before he was finished, Bassitt scooped up some dirt and put in his pocket as a memento of the place where he found himself as a big leaguer, telling reporters afterward he wasn’t sure if he’d ever pitch at the Coliseum again.

“I’d thought about it, making a little shadow box kind of thing,” Bassitt said at his locker Sunday before the series finale and the last time the Blue Jays will be in Oakland this year. “I’m not going to display it for the world but I will at home for sure.”

Bassitt, 35, is one of many fan favorites over the years, not to mention the media who came to appreciate his sense of humor and willingness to give blunt, honest responses. His earned run average at the Coliseum is 2.36 in 282 1/3 innings, behind only lefty reliever Paul Lindblad (2.29 in 319 innings), who played 11 of his 14 seasons with the A’s starting when the franchise was in Kansas City.

That’s the No. 2 ERA for any pitcher with more than 250 innings at the Coliseum, ahead of Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter (2.39 in 1,095 1/3 innings). Better than Vida Blue (2.43 in 1,029 1/3 innings), Ken Holtzman (2.45 in 6 1/3 innings), Dennis Eckersley (2.63 in 424 1/3 innings). Better than Dave Stewart (3.03 in 891 1/3 innings). Better than two pitchers who were on hand for an alumni Sunday event, Tim Hudson (3.06 in 657 1/3 innings) and Mark Mulder (3.36 in 509 innings).

Bassitt knows this, but isn’t about to take full credit.

“I’d give that to my teammates,” Bassitt said. “People make a big deal about the foul ground. I thought I got blessed with real good teammates that were real good on defense. Every time I pitched a felt free. Just go out and make ’em earn every run because you’ve got such good defenses behind you. I was blessed.”

Traded from the Chicago White Sox to the A’s in 2015, a deal that also included Marcus Semien, Bassitt got off to a rocky start. He was 1-10 when he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016 and his future was far from certain. he wasn’t as bad as his record — the A’s teams those first two years were 68-94 and 69-93.

“Those teams, they just weren’t good teams,” Bassitt said. “It was more a case of waiting for Matt Chapman and Matt Olson and those guys to get here.”

When the Blue Jays arrived in town, Bassitt even walked the pitching staff to the top of top of Mount Davis, the structure added upon the return of the Raiders to the Coliseum in 1995.

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 27: Oakland Athletics pitcher Chris Bassitt (40) pumps his fist after the final out defeating the Los Angeles Angels in the ninth inning of their MLB game at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 27, 2021. Oakland defeated Los Angeles 5-0. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
Chris Bassitt celebrates after pitching a two-hit shutout against the Angels on May 27, 2021 at the Coliseum. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

Bassitt has an unconventional style that’s all elbows and knees, with sharp breaking pitches to go along with a rainbow curve ball. He doesn’t look or throw like anyone else, which meshes perfectly with the home venue as well as the fan base.

Kotsay joked he warned his team that Bassitt “throws eight pitches, so I only want you to concentrate on two.”

Bassitt came back from Tommy John in 2018 and was 2-3 with a 3.02 ERA before he career took off, going 27-11 in his last three seasons in Oakland before — of course — leaving in free agency to the New York Mets.

Two games stand out among many. In the first, Bassitt threw a two-hit shutout on May 27, 2021 against the Los Angeles Angels. In a Zoom call with reporters afterward in the aftermath of the pandemic, Bassitt was emotional to the point of tears.

“There was just so much effort from so many people inthe organization and a lot of them are still here,” Bassitt said. “It was post-Tommy John and there was a time where I didn’t know if I was going to be able to throw anymore the way the rehab was going at first. I was just so grateful.”

Later that season on Aug. 17, Bassitt took a 100 miles per hour line drive from Brian Goodwin of the White Sox off the face and had surgery for a fractured cheekbone. He miraculously returned to pitch five weeks later, further endearing him to the fan base.

“It is such a passionate fan base and so fun and very weird,” Bassitt said. “I loved it.”

As for the A’s impending move to Sacramento and eventually Las Vegas, Bassitt appears to resigned to what seems inevitable.

“I thought about it when I walked in here to start the series this would be it,” Bassitt said. “It’s been a long, long time coming. People think it’s been just two or three years, but we were dealing with this since 2015 when I got here and it was going on before that.”

That the A’s seldom did things in a conventional way appealed to an unconventional pitcher.

“All I knew about the A’s when I got here was (the movie) `Moneyball,’ ” Bassitt said. “You don’t really know how you’re going to go about it, but you’re going to put a good team on the field and that’s what we did at the time.”

Soon enough, there will be a shadow box of dirt at the Bassitt home to serve as a reminder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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