Television Tuesdays: Pitch

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Premise

Pitch centers on Ginny Baker, the first woman to ever become a Major League Baseball player. She’s called up from the minor leagues to pitch for the San Diego Padres. Suddenly, she’s thrust into the spotlight as she garners attention from her new teammates, fans, and critics alike. Pitch airs Thursdays, at 8:59 EST on Fox.

Overview

Pitch is, of course, about baseball. Or rather, it exists in the world of baseball, but it’s about personal goals and the struggles and sacrifices that must be made to live the dream. Ginny isn’t just a celebrity, she’s a new celebrity and a professional athlete and must therefore learn to carefully navigate the sometimes-thin line between her public and private self. News reporters want her comment and  young girls clamor for her autograph, leaving Ginny to learn how to be in demand.

Not all of her time is spent surrounded by adoring fans and curious media. Her new teammates are, at best, skeptical. At their worst they are sexist and chauvinistic, forcing Ginny to raise her hackles and fight extra hard to prove herself. She gets to practice early and puts in extra training while balancing media requests and being the sole player on her team asked to give public comments about difficult topics, like the rape of collegiate female athlete.

I’ve been told by friends who know professional baseball better than myself that the MLB games portrayed on Pitch accurately reflect reality. For baseball fans tuning in, that may be an important factor, but even people who don’t follow baseball or even care about sports can find something to root for in Pitch. The show is full of heart and humor. I’m insanely happy to see a professional female athlete being portrayed on TV. Not only that, but we have a woman of color leading the show. This representation is a step in the right direction, but there are some limitations: male characters still significantly outnumber the female. This is, to an extent, expected in a show about professional baseball and the female characters we’ve met so far seem to be fully realized with their own ambitions and personalities.

Pitch is one of the rare shows that makes me genuinely happy to watch. It has dramatic moments and an interesting plot, but what really keeps me invested in shows are the characters. I like Ginny Baker. I, like the fans in the show, cheer for her. Her attempts to forge genuine connections with her teammates is relatable. And, let’s not forget, the show has Zack Morris. Zack Morris was my first TV crush and Mark-Paul Gosselaar is just as captivating and fun to watch on Pitch as he was on Saved By The Bell.

Relationships

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Ginny and Mark – Ginny’s closest teammate is her captain and catcher, Mike Lawson. From the start, they struggle to find footing with one another–Mark is about to age out of the game, he has to keep Ginny positive and his teammates in line, and Ginny idolized him as a child (but sure doesn’t want him to know that). It certainly feels as though the pair will maintain a will they/won’t they sexual chemistry, but honestly Mark is an amazing mentor for Ginny. It’s heartening to watch him come to grips with the fact that this girl who’s shaking up the game he’s devoted his life to will be his legacy.

Blip and Evelyn (and Ginny)-  Ginny came up through the minor leagues with Blip and they remain genuine friends. With Blip comes his truly wonderful wife, Evelyn. Evelyn provides a necessary balance for Ginny, a rare female friend that doesn’t work for her. Ginny’s home-away-from-home is in the folds of Blip and Evelyn’s family, from acting big-sister to their 7-year-old twin boys to or little sister to Evelyn. Evelyn genuinely cares about both Blip, Ginny, and the game. Their marriage is something to root for.

Ginny and Amelia – Before becoming Ginny’s agent, Amelia worked as a high-powered Hollywood agent to the stars. She sought out Ginny and forms a fiercely protective way of championing Ginny.

There are plenty more combinations of characters that form relationships of varying importance. The Padres don’t quite know how to incorporate her into their ranks, from the players on through to the team manager. Through flashbacks we learn about Ginny’s fraught relationship with her parents, transient friends and boyfriends she had as she grew up in the world of baseball. They are all interesting and thoughtfully portrayed and serve Ginny’s characterization well.