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A tremendous flashback day. 4/10/2018. A look back at a remarkable Monday. The Bassler comeback.

POSTED April 17, 2020
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: It’s been nearly 24-hours, but I bet if anybody looked closely, that ear to ear smile that Brian Bassler was wearing as he prepared to make his full comeback from Burkitt’s Leukemia on the mound against the Holy Cross on Monday in Waterbury was still there.

From the moment he arrived at Waterville Park, he had a look about him that not many of us could relate to.

One that spoke of the relief he felt when he got the okay from the doctors a few months back that told him that he was good, that the illness that robbed him of nine months had been beaten back like an inside fastball backing a batter off the plate.

He didn’t look nervous as he headed down the left field line to warm up with his catcher, Cam Cerruto under the watchful eye of legendary former head coach Gerry Carbone.

In fact, he looked so ready that Cerruto had to ask him if wanted to short toss beforehand but no, he was ready to throw hard.

Now, Bassler will never be confused with Noah Syndergaard when it comes to throwing heat. He’s more of a Tom Glavine kind of thrower, one that needs to keep the opposing batter off balance.

Starting his new season against the defending Class S Champion Crusaders might not have seemed like the ideal foe to come back against but this is Brian Bassler, a senior who doesn’t know the meaning of backing away from the challenge.

What has struck me the most about Bassler since I first met him at the fundraiser held in his honor last November was how appreciative and collected he was for a young man his age.

This is a young man who has truly been touched by the support he has gotten in the halls of THS when kids he didn’t know came up to him and wished him luck or by the community as a whole.

The same feeling applied on Monday when he took the mound to a standing ovation by everyone who stopped by Waterville Park for the game. heck, I think the kids shooting hoops across the street paused for a moment.  

A tip of the cap and a grand smile followed but then it was time to get down to the business of playing something that had become so much more than a game for Bassler.

It was the finish line.

He had told me back in November that his goal was to get back on the mound, back to normal.

His teammates were as much in awe of what he was doing as anyone, they each had an extra step in their hustle or muscle on a throw.

They were going to stand up for their teammate because he refused to lay down in front of his illness.

It’s what any of them who have known him a while where not surprised at.

“I’ve known Brian since we played together in Babe Ruth,” junior Ben Richardson said. “He’s just a fantastic kid. I can’t say enough about the kind of kid he is. He always gives 100 percent. Even though something terrible happened to him, he kept working to get back.”

His head coach, one of the organizers of the event last year, Pat Richardson, has marveled at how Bassler has attacked his ailment.

“He never changed,” Richardson said. “Before he was sick, when he was sick and after he was sick, he was the same person.”

More than anything, Bassler wanted to be out on the diamond, fighting for his teammates and competing the best he could.

Nobody cared who won the game, even the Crusaders. This was bigger.   

“It wasn’t about baseball today,” Richardson said. “It was about overcoming adversity and showing everybody what he could do.”

One not soon forgotten.

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