At this particular moment in time, there’s nothing that says you’ve made it like getting a fruit basket from Hillary Clinton. That’s how we know Ginny Baker, the woman in Fox’s first-woman-ballplayer drama Pitch, is a big effin deal: She wakes up next to a column of nectarines from HRC herself. The attached note reads: “Dear Ginny, Bill and I couldn’t be rooting for you more! And of course, on a more personal level, I’m a little partial to someone trying to be the first woman to do something. Best of luck, Hillary.” There’s also a basket from Ellen DeGeneres. (Nothing from Trump that I can see, though I could picture Ivanka sending a formal note and some shoes from her design line.)
It’s a lot to swallow. Not the fruit. The hype. Within the first few minutes of Pitch, we watch Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) duck the paparazzi outside her hotel. We see little girls holding out markers for autographs. A fake Garbage Time segment rolls and Katie Nolan smirks as she remarks into the camera, “Bitch and moan all you want, gentlemen, but tonight, a girl’s going to be the top sports story in the world. And if that upsets you, well, maybe you’re just getting your period.”
No one has invited her comeback directly, but Pitch has to get this defensive moment out of the way. Just as some men might not want to watch a woman play baseball, some men might not want to watch a show about a woman playing baseball. But if Pitch wants to plant a new idea in our heads, they’re happy to use seeds with which we’re all already familiar. They pander hard to people who love sports movies — so, all people, when you really get down to it — and the pandering proves irresistible. Wide, dreamy shots of stadium crowds? Check. Slow-motion game action set to breathless music? Check. And then there’s the roster. Any of these types look familiar, sports fans? We’ve got:
- The hardheaded hero: Ginny is a stubborn, tough talent who’s got a lot to learn about baseball, but more importantly, about life. Like the main character from, you know, everything.
- The sharp-tongued agent: Ali Larter plays Amelia, a shark in Theory separates. She gave up Clooney to rep Ginny. That’s right: She’s so close with him, she blew right past first-name basis and looped around to last-name basis.
- The grizzled skipper: I, too, would yell “Get me the dad from The Wonder Years!” if I were to ever write a beleaguered coach character. The difference is that when Dan Fogelman yells it, Dan Lauria answers and, as Al, does his grumbly, put-upon thing.
- The playboy fan favorite: Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s star catcher, Mike, preens and preaches and happily cozies up to groupies in bars — in other words, he’s more AC Slater here than Zach Morris.
- The buddy with a history: Ginny’s married minor-league comrade Blip (Mo McRae) might be more than a clubhouse pal. We get a hint of trouble to come when another teammate snaps at Blip, “Why do I get the feeling you’ve tapped that ass?” Blip responds by tackling him, which is probably more trouble than you’d go to if the answer was, “I have not — whatever gave you that idea?”
- The front-office suit: As Oscar, Mark Consuelos is a guy with a good heart but a thousand-dollar haircut. At some point, almost definitely, someone will tell him baseball is a game and he will quietly respond with, “It’s a business.”
- And, course, there’s Joe Buck: This being FOX, Joe Buck appears in the pilot several times, confirming the network’s 7,000-year blood contract to put him front and center in all primetime sporting coverage does, in fact, extend to sporting events that aren’t real. John Smoltz is also present, mostly doing that goateed-grimace thing you remember from Topps of yore.
Is that enough baseball-movie magic for you? No? Well, good, because there’s more (much more) in the form of Ginny’s backstory. Her dad — sorry, her pop, all sports-movie dads must be named Pop by law — taught Ginny to pitch in the backyard. She perfected the delicate grip of her famous screwball by tossing hundreds of nectarines (hence the fruit baskets). Every time Ginny won a big game growing up, she’d say “We did it, Pops,” and he’d grumble from under his mustache, “We ain’t done nothin’ yet.” Thousands cheer their lungs out as Ginny takes the mound at Petco Park, but in the stands, Pops is silent and stone-faced.
NEXT: Ginny’s wild night