Until watching the series premiere of Fox’s new drama Pitch, my interest in the beloved and boring sport of baseball began and ended with an affinity for Field of Dreams, A League of Their Own, and Moneyball (the movie, not the book). But I may have to add a fourth entry to that list, because here I am, enjoying another piece of entertainment about a sport in which spitting old dudes with their shirts tucked in dive head first into pillows.
Unlike Moneyball (which is more of a character drama than sports movie), and Field of Dreams (which plays to my weakness for good movie scores, schmaltz, and Amy Madigan), and A League of Their Own (which plays to my weakness for Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna’s friendship), what I enjoyed about Pitch was all the stuff about the sport—the training, the techniques, and the coverage. So much of the show’s first episode, written by creator Dan Fogelman (of This Is Us and Crazy, Stupid, Love) consists of banter between sports journalists about sports stuff on sports TV networks (though I believe they were real sports commentators playing themselves, honestly how could I know for sure), and boy did they have a lot to talk about.
Which brings me to the premise of the show: Kylie Bunbury, who effortlessly carried the premiere, plays Ginny Baker, the first female athlete to nab a jersey on an MLB team (in a nod to Jackie Robinson, she’s given #43). The show opens with Baker leaving her heavily secured hotel room and walking through screaming crowds to attend her first game in the majors. Her publicist Amelia Slater (deliciously played by Ali Larter) abandoned A-list clients like George Clooney to give Baker the Hollywood treatment, because Baker joining the San Diego Padres as their pitcher is the biggest news story in the country.
There is immediate tension between Baker and her teammates—particularly the shifty-eyed starting pitcher and ass-slapper/team captain Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar in an inspired bit of casting)—and the arc of the premiere was fun to watch, if predictable. Even so, I wasn’t convinced of Pitch’s potential for week after week of baseball drama until the final scenes, after Baker’s triumphant (if that’s a spoiler for you, consume more fiction) second game.
It’s then that the episode’s multiple, sort of clunky flashbacks, in which we learn Baker was all but forced into the game by a demanding father (Michael Beach) who never made it to the major leagues, are suddenly given more of a purpose with a shocking final twist that—while far from a Ginny Baker-like game-changer—is just interesting enough to grab me for the season. The reveal comes out of nowhere and sure, it’s more than a little bizarre for a show about sports, but a sport as boring as baseball could use a setup as exciting and well-made as the one in Pitch.
Notes I Jotted Down During Episode 1:
- This show was clearly written by a man. “She’s Hillary Clinton with sex appeal. She’s a Kardashian with a skill set.”
- Bob Balaban as the sneaky, super rich team owner!
- The dad from Wonder Years as the grumpy old manager who should probably start looking for another job!
- One of the guys from 2GE+HER!
- This is such an overwritten line but I loved it: “You chose it for me! You did! I have no friends! No interests! I’m a robot in cleats, malfunctioning!”