Bassitt saves memories -- and Coliseum dirt -- after gem

Blue Jays' righty high on eye-popping list with 2nd-lowest ERA on Oakland hill (min. 250 IP)

June 8th, 2024

OAKLAND -- fired his final pitch of the night, a curveball that A's left fielder Miguel Andujar swung through for strike three, and turned to walk back to the visitors' dugout after tossing eight innings of one-run ball.

But first, he leaned down to scoop up a handful of dirt from the mound and put it in his pocket.

"I don't know if I'll ever see this place again," Bassitt said after the Blue Jays' 2-1 walk-off loss on Friday night at the Coliseum, which is hosting A's baseball for the final season after the team announced it would temporarily play its games in Sacramento from 2025-27, before a planned relocation to Las Vegas.

It was a small gesture at the end of a dominant outing, but it didn't go unnoticed.

"Chris is always doing some quirky things, you know," Blue Jays manager John Schneider said.

Bassitt is one of many former A's players now playing elsewhere who have one last chance in 2024 to take the field where their careers took off. With Friday's gem, Bassitt secured his place on a Coliseum leaderboard by lowering his career ERA on that mound to 2.36, the second lowest in Coliseum history (min. 250 innings). He trails only Paul Lindblad (2.29).

There are plenty of big names rounding out the top 10 after Lindblad and Bassitt, in order: Catfish Hunter (2.39), Vida Blue (2.43), Ken Holtzman (2.45), Dennis Eckersley (2.63), Rollie Fingers (3.02), Dave Stewart (3.03), Blue Moon Odom (3.03) and Tim Hudson (3.06).

"I know the history," Bassitt said. "I know how many unbelievable pitchers have pitched here, so to be mentioned with any one of those guys' names is special to me, for sure."

Back on a familiar mound, the 35-year-old right-hander struck out seven against two walks and allowed one run on four hits. He needed just 102 pitches to complete eight innings for the first time this season.

"His bag of tricks showed up," A's manager Mark Kotsay said. "This kid can pitch. We had him for [six] years. Bass was a staple. When you talk about the [Bob Melvin] era, Bass was the stable force behind that pitching staff that was so successful. He grew up in this organization. You saw tonight the competitor that he is.”

Bassitt joined the A's organization via trade in the 2014-15 offseason, acquired alongside Marcus Semien and two others in a deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa to the White Sox, and was part of the team's rise from a rebuild to a three-year contention window from '18-21. He posted a 3.44 ERA in 100 games (88 starts) and received his only career All-Star nod in his final season with Oakland.

The last year Bassitt donned the green and gold was 2021, as he was traded to the Mets when the A's began a rebuild the following offseason. As a result, there aren't many holdovers from his time in Oakland in the home dugout.

For Bassitt, though, the memories still remain.

"A lot of people would come here and see how bad Oakland's Coliseum is … and I just see people," he said. "I see BoMel. I see [Matt] Olson, [Matt Chapman] doing stupid stuff. I see [Marcus] Semien, I see [Chad] Pinder, [Mark] Canha -- I see all those guys. This place, obviously, is very, very special to me.

"There's a million different places in this place that I see funny, weird things that happen, and it just brings me back to my best friends in the game."

As the Blue Jays play their final two games in Oakland this weekend, Bassitt won't spend much time checking out old haunts in the ballpark where he spent seven years of his career. Instead, true to his word, he'll use the time to track down some familiar faces.

"A building's a building," he said. "I just care about the people more so than anything."