Real baseball is providing plenty of sports drama this week (the Cubs are that much closer! Chase Utley isn’t going home yet!). Pitch‘s fourth episode doesn’t try to compete with the onfield action. Instead, we get an episode packed with personal drama — a little “Famous Athletes, They’re Just Like Us,” if you will.
Front and center are Ginny’s mommy issues: Mama Baker is coming to town for a few days over the All-Star break, and Gin is dreading it. “If there was an All-Star Game for silent judgment and guilt trips, she’d be MVP,” she mumbles to Evelyn after a shopping trip (hey Pitch writers, I am confident you can come up with one more thing Evelyn likes to do than go shopping). Then, as Evelyn and Blip stand by, Ginny gets a call: She’s been named to the All-Star team. She gapes. Evelyn winces. Blip grimaces. And the degree of shock in the room is a tad unbelievable since, as we’re shown at the top of the episode, 36 million people voted for Ginny to be added to the National League roster.
Okay, I know I said no factchecking, but I had to giggle a little bit at that number. I love to think of the writers trying to come up with a figure that would show formidable enthusiasm for Ginny, and 36 million certainly says it; this year, as the real MLB closed in on its All-Star candidates, the player with the most votes was Royals’ first baseman Salvador Perez, with 3.7 million. But don’t worry: Perez would get his fictional revenge on Ginny without having to leave his couch. This episode pulled off the snazzy trick of splicing real 2016 All-Star game footage into the story, so that it appeared Perez — who actually homered off of Johnny Cueto in this year’s Midsummer Classic — hit the dinger off Ginny.
Let’s back up. When Ginny gets picked for the game, her planned activity time with Mama Baker evaporates. We all understand the pit in Ginny’s stomach, right? Imagine you’ve promised your mother that you’re going to see Hamilton and eat at that diner she read about on TripAdvisor where all the waiters sing showtunes, and then you blow her off to go to the gym. (And let’s be honest: You never had those Hamilton tickets anyway, did you?) That’s basically how Mama Baker sees Ginny ditching her to play in the All-Star Game. She is unimpressed with the excuse, and she does the sad mom eyes. Even her haircut seems to have been designed to accommodate disappointed eyebrows. Mama Baker is a travel agent, and she is sending Ginny on a one-way trip to I’m-Not-Mad-I’m-Just-Disappointed City.
Mama’s got plays of her own, though; later, at dinner, she shows up with Kevin, who seems to have come straight from goofy well-meaning stepdad central casting. When Kevin compliments Ginny’s father on raising an All-Star, Ginny snaps at him like a sullen 13-year-old—and we’re almost headed to Team Mom when a flashback stops us in our tracks. Turns out Kevo isn’t so innocent after all; Ginny caught him and Ma canoodling back when she was a kid and dad was still around.
This would all feel pretty cliché if it weren’t for the subtext of the flashback. Before Ginny catches her mom cheating, she’s close with her, turning to her for the stuff like ear-piercing and dance-dress-shopping—you know, the girly things that her dad and his mustache disapprove of. But once her mom betrays her dad, Ginny doubles down on baseball as a sign of loyalty to him — and a statement on the kind of woman she doesn’t want to be.
Still, though Mama Baker is far from perfect, you have to empathize with her when she explains, “Baseball killed my marriage and took my daughter away from me.” This is where Pitch scores. We can nitpick its attention to accuracy when it comes to velocity and voting, but it is getting the dark side of sports right thus far. No man, and definitely no woman, gets to this level without sacrificing nearly everything we think of normal life containing. This glimpse at young Ginny’s emotional maneuvering feels much more original than its modern-day aftermath. It’s almost like we have to start ranking Pitch flashbacks and Pitch present-day stories separately — and so far, the flashbacks are definitely far more compelling.
NEXT: So much behind-the-plate drama