'Ginny’s still figuring out who she is, just like I am,' says star Kylie Bunbury
“Okay, so Zack Morris is going to be slapping my ass. Interesting,” remembers Kylie Bunbury of her first chemistry read with costar Mark-Paul Gosselaar. “He was so polite and asked me if he could, and I said yes. And then I got to slap his as well! So it was a win-win.”
Though Bunbury makes it sound like a glamorous job perk, for her character Ginny Baker on Fox’s new drama Pitch — the first female Major League baseball player — it’s only one of many indignities she’ll have to suffer on her way to success as a new pitcher for the San Diego Padres.
When Ginny shows up at the clubhouse on her first day, every little girl in America, not to mention the team’s fictional owner (Bob Balaban) and her tenacious agent (Ali Larter), are rooting for her to win big. (Even Hillary Clinton sends good-luck flowers!) Ginny is an overnight sensation before she’s thrown a pitch. Unfortunately, Ginny’s teammates, including captain Mike Lawson (Gosselaar), aren’t keen on a girl coming in to take their job. And a nagging question looms large: Is she just a sideshow gimmick to help the flagging team sell tickets? Add to that living up to the astronomically high expectations of a father (Michael Beach) who takes stage parenting to new heights, and Ginny’s job becomes a helluva lot bigger than just playing ball.
But Ginny isn’t the only one feeling the pressure of being in the spotlight. In fact, one could compare Pitch’s launch to the overwhelming excitement of bases loaded, two outs, with the team’s last hope stepping up to the plate. And heading the lineup is a rookie: first-time lead Bunbury, until now best known for her secondary turn on CBS’ Under the Dome. Despite few credits to her name, the actress was cast before Pitch was picked up to pilot, both because she impressed the powers that be and because they wanted to give her enough time to learn how to throw a ball before cameras rolled.
“I mean, I feel a lot of pressure, but I’m not focusing on it,” Bunbury says. “I’m just trying to focus on my work, just trying to be the best actress I can be and be the best person I can be, and that’s my focus right now. That’s all you can do is stay present, stay grateful. Balance is key for me — balancing the work, my training, the press, my friends and family, and then doing things for myself alone, so that’s meditating, I go into nature a lot, I just bought a saxophone, so I’m trying to learn how to play that.”
But the self-deprecating, lighthearted 27-year-old is not taking her call up from the minor leagues nonchalantly, parsing her words carefully and pausing to find the best answer when asked about how she relates to her character. “Ginny’s still figuring out who she is, just like I am. She knows how to handle the ballplayer element, she knows how to handle herself around the guys. But normal, typical social things, she doesn’t.”
Preseason, the former teen model who grew up in Minnesota playing soccer and basketball, had two and a half months to learn how to pitch, throwing three days a week while also boxing and doing full-body workouts. “I had never thrown a baseball before,” Bunbury admits. Now she’s focusing on batting, watching tons of MLB Network — “Learning through osmosis,” she quips — and training alongside costars Mo McRae and Gosselaar (who actually got to gain a bit of weight for his role). “We’re definitely pushing each other,” Bunbury says. “We really have that team dynamic; a little bit of competition.”
Despite the (literal) pains the show goes to make the world of baseball come to life, Bunbury insists, “Baseball is just the backdrop of this show. The show is about, from my character, figuring out who she is. It’s a coming of age story for Ginny, and it’s about working really hard to attain a dream. It’s about the human experience and real things that are going on. You’re getting to see real human beings going through real life things that everyone can relate to, and then we just so happen to be ball players.”
Pitch debuts Thursday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.