Female MLB player reshapes classic baseball drama

The Fox television series “Pitch” is just like any other baseball story: it tells of a young rookie pitcher who finally gets a start in the big leagues after an overpowering father pushes his athlete to do his best. In the midst of a defining start, an old-timer veteran gives him the standard inspirational speech. In the end, he succeeds.

“Pitch” follows this exact formula, except for one twist: the young rookie is a girl.

It all begins during the morning routine of Ginny Baker—played by Kylie Bunbury—on her first day in the major leagues.

She stretches her neck, and we see multiple gift baskets of nectarines from famous women like Hillary Clinton and Ellen DeGeneres—which we’ll come to understand later in the episode. As we see her get dressed in her hotel room and walk into the hallway, we start to recognize what’s going on. But it isn’t until Baker gets to the lobby that we see the pomp and circumstance that follow her.

The hotel lobby is full of cheering fans as Baker’s publicist Amelia Slater—played by Ali Larter—informs the athlete of their schedule. Larter—who plays a rather uninteresting and perhaps unlikable stereotypical female publicist—provides a stark contrast to the budding female athlete.

While Slater stomps over anyone who gets in her way and has odd and unnecessary banter with lustful men, Baker is an incredibly likable character who displays real development in just one episode.

Bunbury portrays Baker as a headstrong woman, secure with her place on an all-male team. At the same time, she can show weakness and vulnerability, whether that be from frustration with her athletic performance or sadness from personal circumstance.

A dichotomy between how the press reacts to Baker’s entrance to the majors was already evident at the beginning of the pilot, exemplified by two different reporters’ takes on Baker’s major league success. We hear the voice of a female reporter triumphantly exclaiming, “If you want to say [Baker is] only getting her shot because she’s a woman, go ahead. But let’s be real, if you’re saying that, you’re a man … So bitch and moan all you want gentlemen, but tonight, a girl’s going to be the lead sport story in the world.”

This is followed by a less emphatic male announcer who says, “Now listen, I’m all in on Ginny Baker. It’s the biggest sports story since OJ, and hopefully it has a happier ending. But comparing this girl to Jackie Robinson is preposterous.”

Baker is likened to the first African-American professional baseball player more than once. In fact, the show endorses her as the new Robinson—her jersey number is 43, one up from Robinson’s famous 42. This idea leads into the background behind the show and perhaps will be the future source of conflict for the young pitcher—that she’s only in the big leagues to sell tickets.

It’s interesting and admirable, though, that the San Diego Padres and Major League Baseball have plastered their name all over this show. The show was filmed in Petco Park—the Padres’ home stadium—and features actual MLB announcers. At times, it looks as if the show is an actual telecast of a baseball game.

For the most part, Baker’s teammates and managers fully support her and treat her just like any other teammate. After butting heads at first, catcher Mike Lawson—played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar—gives Baker a motivational speech when she needs it the most, filling the role of the charismatic and experienced veteran from the classic baseball story.

“Pitch” may be your typical baseball story with a twist, but be careful—watching Baker enter the field for the first time just might bring tears to your eyes.