Stuff You Should Be Watching: Pitch

So what happens when the first woman is called up to a Major League Baseball team?

Ginny, doffing her cap at the crowd as she ends her part in a game.
Ginny, doffing her cap at the crowd as she ends her part in a game.

This is the story of Ginny Baker, a 23 year old phenom pitcher who is called up by the San Diego Padres as a starting pitcher. She’s good, she’s beautiful, and she’s got the expectations of millions of women and girls on her shoulders.

Ginny, in her Padres uniform, talking to some girls in the stands. One of them, about 12, is saying "I'm gonna be in the majors someday, too."
Ginny, in her Padres uniform, talking to some girls in the stands. One of them, about 12, is saying “I’m gonna be in the majors someday, too.”

In addition, this is the story of the team around her – Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), a catcher at the end of his career; Amelia Slater (Ali Larter), Ginny’s agent; Blip Sander (Mo McRae), a Padres player and long time friend of Ginny’s from the minors; and Al Luongo (Dan Lauria) the manager of the team – a old man who’s had the world change and he’s not sure how to change with it.

There’s a lot of things happening. Ginny is faced with a mountain of pressure to do well. Her first game she’s greeted with thousands of little girls holding signs saying “I’m next” and all of the media either calling her the greatest thing that ever happened, or a failure before she even takes the mound. The Padres owner gives her the number 43, “One up from Jackie.”

Number 43 walking out to the mound for her first major league game.
Number 43 walking out to the mound for her first major league game.
A tiny, round-cheeked young Ginny (about 3) jumping up and down in glee after having thrown a ball past her dad.
A tiny, round-cheeked young Ginny (about 3) jumping up and down in glee after having thrown a ball past her dad.

No pressure.

The first few episodes work well because a sports underdog story has specific beats that audiences relate to, such as the scrappy underdog and the grizzled veteran who takes her under his wing and helps her get her head on straight. There’s usually a training montage and a win against all odds. We get that, mostly, and then, once they’ve established who everyone is through a familiar narrative, then we get into the meat of the show.

Mike and Ginny, standing next to each other in a hallway, with him saying "That's because you have a different image of me, probably from all those posters you had hanging on your bedroom wall." Ginny is laughing.
Mike and Ginny, standing next to each other in a hallway, with him saying “That’s because you have a different image of me, probably from all those posters you had hanging on your bedroom wall.” Ginny is laughing.
Flashback to Ginny's room when she was 12- with, yes, a Mike Lawson poster.
Flashback to Ginny’s room when she was 12- with, yes, a Mike Lawson poster.
Ginny, responding "Oh, I did not have posters of you hanging on my bedroom wall." (lies)
Ginny, responding “Oh, I did not have posters of you hanging on my bedroom wall.” (lies)

I love Ginny, but the character I’m most delighted with is Mike. I am of the perfect age to have grown up with Saved by the Bell, so I can see this is the guy that Zack Morris grew up to be. Watching Mark-Paul sink his teeth into a guy who’s trying to get his body to hold out for JUST a few more years while he figures out his post-baseball life  has been fun. (And given that we’ve just had my beloved Big Papi, Boston’s own David Ortiz, finish up his spectacular last season, it’s especially timely.)

I never would have expected Mark-Paul (look, I grew up with the guy, we are on a first name basis) to be the one out of the SBtB crew to have to actual career (that would have been Lark Voorhes). But here we are!

Ginny, in the bullpen, nodding at Mike
Ginny, in the bullpen, nodding at Mike
Mike, nodding back.
Mike, nodding back.

And the relationship between Ginny and Mike is lovely. They have fantastic chemistry, and one of the grand traditions in baseball is how the old hands teach the new kids how to behave and mentor them through the transition to the major leagues. And a pitcher and a catcher should have a good working relationship- they need to be able to communicate silently and know what the other is going to do.

And once Mike and Ginny establish their boundaries and demand respect from each other, they find a good, solid rapport and lovely relationship builds.

Ginny on the mound, shaking her head
Ginny on the mound, shaking her head
Close up on Mike's eyes behind the catcher's mask, narrowing in frustration.
Close up on Mike’s eyes behind the catcher’s mask, narrowing in frustration.

They are not shying away from the current concerns of rape culture in sports. In the second episode, Ginny is asked to comment on a rape accusation in another sport, and at first she’s unwilling to do so, for very good reasons – she’s got a lot on her plate just trying to cope with her own team, and it’s not her duty to comment on every gender-related thing in sports.

But then after thinking about it, she says, on Jimmy Fallon! “We need to make sure every boy knows it’s wrong to rape.” Which for a network show? That’s HUGE.

(They have also tweeted pictures of adding Jessica Luther’s book Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape to Ginny’s apartment/hotel room set, which is amazing.)

Ginny, on the Jimmy Fallon set, saying "A woman's not responsible for her own rape because she went into the wrong locker room."
Ginny, on the Jimmy Fallon set, saying, “A woman’s not responsible for her own rape because she went into the wrong locker room.”

The other thing I want to talk about is the production values. They shoot in the Padre’s stadium, Petco Park, and have actual MLB branding, so there’s no suspension of disbelief on the part of trying to think that a minor league stadium is really a major league ballpark. That helps a lot.

I am not really a sports person, but I had roommates for two years who are HUGE Red Sox fans, and we watched a lot of games. I would ask intelligent questions, so I have a reasonable understanding of how the game works. I’m also a Boston girl, and it’s hard to live in Boston and not have an appreciation for the Red Sox. You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball to enjoy this show (like, if you get A League of Their Own, you have a sufficient grounding in baseball), but if you know things, there are treats thrown in for you.

Ginny and the catcher from another team in a screaming match, when one of her teammates comes and TACKLES THE OTHER GUY it's amazing.
Ginny and the catcher from another team in a screaming match, when one of her teammates comes and TACKLES THE OTHER GUY it’s amazing.

Look, this little show needs some help. Ratings have fallen since the premiere.

It’s a great show with a great cast and I want to see where it can go. I also think a lot of you would like it.

It’s on Fox on Thursdays at 9/8 Central, and you can catch up on Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, Google:Play, and OnDemand.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    CelineB says:

    I love this show almost as much as I hate actual baseball! I too love Mark-Paul on this, though I always figured Elizabeth Berkley would be the one who has the post-SBTB career. That may have been I related to Jessie a little too much.

  2. 2
    Tindi says:

    I didn’t even KNOW about this show! I love baseball, but I don’t watch much TV. I will have to try this out!

  3. 3
    Diana says:

    So, capitalization in acronyms was something I never put much stock in, until I read:

    “I never would have expected Mark-Paul (look, I grew up with the guy, we are on a first name basis) to be the one out of the SBtB crew to have to actual career…”

    And I asked myself for a second: this guy works for/with SBTB? Why did I never hear any mention of him being on staff? 😀
    And then the small cap ‘t’ registered…

  4. 4
    SB Sarah says:

    @Diana: for a long time, I would get confused when people talking about Saved By the Bell talked about “SBTB” and I was like, “That’s… not a thing we’ve talked about… OHHHHHH The OTHER Sbtb!”

  5. 5
    Bethy1017 says:

    I ADORE this show! I came late to it and had to watch the first few on demand, but I absolutely love the chemistry between Ginny & Mike, and as a once really big baseball fan (have fallen off these past few years), I appreciate all the actual footage that’s in there, too. I am not sure where the show will go once the novelty wears off, but I’m just really liking it, and was sad that it wasn’t on this past week.

  6. 6
    Leah says:

    This is my favorite show on TV right now, and it breaks my heart that it might not get a full pick up. Fingers crossed!!!!

  7. 7

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  8. 8
    Katey says:

    Yes! This show is so good. Ginny and Mike are absolutely the highlight, but I also really enjoy the relationship between Blip and Evelyn Sanders. Blip is a former teammate of Ginny’s that she reunites with on the Padres, and his wife Evelyn is also a good friend. These two are the sweetest, funniest couple, but the characters also give glimpse of the difficulties of maintaining a relationship in that environment. Love it!

  9. 9
    Sara Rider says:

    I love Blip and Evelyn, too. Their relationship is complex, sweet and very real. And the sexual tension between Ginny and Mike is perfect – understated and explosive at the same time. This show does a great job of fleshing out all its female characters, which is refreshing. I really hope more people start watching it because I will be heartbroken if it gets cancelled.

  10. 10
    Cassandra says:

    I’ve been watching this with my sports-mad son and we both love it. He’s at the age(13) where I want to talk gender issues and the show is a good way to introduce those topics. Plus, the actors are fantastic! I hope the show does better as more people become aware of how good it is.

  11. 11
    Maureen says:

    I’ve been meaning to tune in to this show, but just haven’t gotten to it. Now it is my priority! Thanks for the review.

  12. 12

    I’m so glad to see this show featured here! I agree that it’s awesome. I’m a huge baseball fan and I had serious reservations about tuning in, but those fears were quickly put to rest. I was worried Ginny would be this pitching phenom with unbelievable stats, but her fastball tops out at 87, she pitches 5-6 innings and gets pulled, she walks people… She’s good enough to be there, but she’s not great, and I appreciate the realism. For people who don’t like baseball, the show’s not overwhelmed by sports talk, it’s about the people involved in the game, and that’s what makes it must-watch. I cannot agree enough with all the Mark-Paul Gosselaar kudos – he’s amazing, and the chemistry between all the characters is stellar. We need more people to tune in so we get a full season.

  13. 13
    Nina says:

    Man, as a non-northern American who has no connection to baseball whatsoever and who has been watching the show Through Means, I freaking love it. I love Mike and his end-of-career angst, the surprisingly fun hookup between him and Amelia, I love Blip and Evelyn and their amazing marriage, and I freaking adore Ginny with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Hearing that it’s tanking in the ratings is just heartbreaking.

    But yeah, heartily, heartily recommended!

  14. 14

    I checked out the pilot and was a bit meh (probably because I’d just watched the pilot of This Is Us), so I haven’t tuned back in again. I was not crazy about the twist involving the father and saw it coming from about a mile away. There has just been so many outstanding shows this season that I’m having trouble keeping up with them all, but I want to get into this so much. I did love the chemistry between Ginny and Mike in the one episode I’ve seen. I was also glad to see Mark Consuelos actually doing something other than keeping the co-host seat warm for whomever will be taking over for Michael Strahan. I loved him as Mateo Santos on All My Children and I could never figure out why he wasn’t on my shows.

    As for Mark-Paul Gosselaar, if the only thing I’d ever seen him in was Saved by the Bell, I’d be shocked at how good he is, but I loved him on both NYPD Blue (he was Sipowicz’s last partner) and Franklin and Bash.

  15. 15
    Tina C. says:

    I didn’t think I’d love this show as much as I do. I love that it doesn’t always take the path that I expected it to. I love that Ginny and Evelyn are best friends and that she’s not the slightest bit concerned about Ginny’s friendship with Blip (in fact B and E’s marriage is one of my favorite things about the show!). I loved Mike’s ego forced him to push to keep up with Ginny when she was working out and that little collapse he had as soon as she walked out of the room – it was adorable! I love that the female characters are fleshed out and there’s none of that lazy “women can’t be around each other without being competitive and catty with each other, ammIright, wink wink nudge” crap. It makes me sad that this show doesn’t have the ratings that it deserves.

  16. 16
    Katie Lynn says:

    The thing about this show is that on the surface it is a show about baseball. But if you dig a little deeper it’s about so many things. It’s really about the relationships between these characters, and gender issues.

    I told a friend to watch it this weekend, and she was VERY upset that there were no more episodes once it was done. And can we talk about the music chosen for this series? Whoever is in charge of the music is doing an absolutely stunning job. There have been remakes of songs sung by women, and the song used for the opening credits is really catchy and I catch myself randomly humming bits of it.

  17. 17
    marion says:

    This poor show has a very bad time slot. It’s scheduled against sports. I wish Fox would give it a chance but I am not holding my breath.

  18. 18
    Jill-Marie says:

    I knew nothing about this show! Now I know what I will be watching tonight on Amazon. Thanks!

  19. 19
    Jill Q says:

    I didn’t even know about this show and binged it yesteday. I’m meh about actual baseball but love baseball movies and this reminds me of two of my favorites, Bull Durham and A League of Their Own. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve got my fingers crossed for it.

  20. 20

    @Marion, I completely agree with you. The time slot sucks. For me, it is up against Supernatural, which I’ve been watching for what seems like forever now.

  21. 21
    Pamala says:

    I LOVE this show! My teen son watched the first three episodes with me and he’s all in too. But he made an ominous prediction when he said “mom, this is a good show. on FOX. Remember Fox? They cancelled Firefly, so we can’t trust them to keep any good shows.”

    OMG, let’s hope he’s wrong. PLEASE WATCH THIS SHOW.

  22. 22
    SB Sarah says:

    @Pamala: Your son is very wise. Unfortunately, yes, it is Fox – hence our writing about the show to make sure more people get to enjoy it!

  23. 23
    Alison says:

    I love this show. Pitch and This is Us are the only two shows I’ve stuck with this fall. Love the chemistry between Ginny and Mike, as well as the behind the scenes look at a major league club. I hope the ratings pick up. I want more Pitch.

  24. 24
    Patricia says:

    But is there a romance or potential romance? It sounds like I should be shipping Mike and Ginny????

  25. 25
    StaceyIK says:

    I really like this show. I didn’t know if I would like it because I’m also not a big sports fan. But I am enjoying this. The flashbacks really help progress the story and flesh out the characters in interesting ways. And the writing is really top notch.

    And yes, I am shipping Mike and Ginny, at least a future Mike and Ginny relationship. They need a little time as best friends. And Mike needs a little time to grow into a real romance hero kind of guy. He has a little relationship learning ahead of him and I think he will get it from a certain girlfriend he has now. But, yep, I’m shipping Mike and Ginny.

  26. 26
    Pamala says:

    OMG @StaceylK! That’s exactly what I think too. The flashbacks are so well done and completely help to advance the story. The structure totally appeals to the writer in me 🙂

    And I had this same conversation with a friend about how it was too soon for Mike and Ginny to become a couple–that they needed to be besties first while they both grow into the things they need to (Ginny into being more secure about her place in the league and Mike into his plans for after baseball and how to be the romantic hero we know he can be) and that I hoped and PRAYED that Fox would give the show time to do that.

    The last thing anyone wants is for the show to do something dumb like Sleepy Hollow did and get rid of your lead actress because they fell down a rabbit hole of a storyline and then were trying so hard not to make the affection between the leads romantic. 🙁

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