Earlier this year, we told you that Fox was filming a pilot for a show about Major League Baseball’s first female player. Well, on Thursday night, Ginny Baker (played by star Kylie Bunbury) put on a Padres jersey as Pitch debuted on Fox. I fired it up on my DVR when I got home from watching the real life Padres, and just like the youngsters on the field at Petco Park tonight, I saw promise in Pitch.
Bunbury absolutely carries the show on her back, offering a convincing portrayal of a baseball player with a lot to prove. Her co-star is Mark-Paul Gosselar (a.k.a. Zack Morris on Saved by the Bell) as Mike Lawson, a veteran catcher looking for that elusive ring. Gosselar plays a douchier, hornier version of Crash Davis, with a little bit of added Key & Peele influence. He’s not wild about Ginny, but he’s going to turn her into a big league pitcher, goddammit. The team is rounded out by Ginny’s buddy from the San Antonio Missions, Blip Sanders. Blip (played by Mo McRae) doesn’t get a lot to do in the pilot, but he does have a solid clubhouse fight with team jackass Tommy.
All of the drama on the field and in the clubhouse is pretty good, but the plots in the front office don’t have as much appeal. Ali Larter shines brightest as Ginny’s take-no-prisoners publicist, but the rest of her well-dressed castmates are a little flat. Mark Consuelos plays the world’s greasiest general manager in Oscar Arguella, and Bob Balaban as team owner Frank Reid is a pretty generic money-grubbing suit.
The biggest disappointment for me came from Ginny’s family. And I’m about to get into spoilers here, so if you want to be surprised, turn away now.
The show regularly flashes back to scenes of Ginny growing up as her dad teaches her baseball. Michael Beach plays the former minor leaguer who failed to make it to the show, and he gives a spot-on rendition of the overbearing sports parent. His disappointment from the stands is brutal as she leaves her debut game only ten pitches in, having failed to come anywhere remotely close to the strike zone. There’s great tension between Beach and Bunbury as he forces her to work in the clubhouse after the game, and I was really looking forward to seeing their relationship evolve over the course of the series.
But that promised was robbed in the last few minutes of the episode, as we flash back to the night the Padres recruited Ginny. There’s a car accident that kills her father instantly, and the show reveals that the man we saw in the stands and the clubhouse is just a specter of the past. It’s a cheap and manipulative shock, and it left a sour aftertaste on an otherwise enjoyable hour of television.
On the whole, Pitch is a promising show, and the gorgeous shots of baseball’s best ballpark are just a little icing on the top for fans of the real Padres. I’ll be coming back for next week’s episode.