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Pitch Is a Dream Come True

 

No matter how many times I watch the Pitch pilot, apparently, I still get chills. Goosebumps up and down my body, the works. I laugh, I cry, and my heart does funny things.

Never did I ever expect that I, a born and raised Red Sox fan, would feel so strongly about another team.

It’s not entirely a mystery as to why. From the very first scene to the last, there is serious power, spirit, and humor. The writing is quick, smart, on point, and the cast knocks it out of the park. It’s sometimes corny, sometimes hilarious and often moving. Their timing is on, their chemistry all there, and the whole package just works, from visuals to the songs played throughout the episode.

Everything came together for an hour of inspiration, worming its way into hearts everywhere.

Newcomer Kylie Bunbury owned the role of Ginny Baker immediately, the second she walked on screen.  Getting in the zone with her music, getting ready for her first game starting for the Padres, walking through the hotel to the car with an entourage – Amelia (Ali Larter) her agent, and Amelia’s cute, puppy-like assistant Eliot (Tim Jo) making up the squad – and we didn’t even need her to say anything.

We just knew: this girl is something else.

She’s cool, even under pressure and even after a miserable first game – she won’t let anyone see her break. She can obviously play hardball with the boys. She’s got something to prove, and she’s a hero to girls on screen and off screen.

More than that, she’s also human. Just a damn tough one, who may struggle, may feel broken – but she doesn’t quit. After the worst possible first pro game of her life, she still comes back to the field, to the team, ready to keep fighting.

Girls, Girls, Girls

The girl power on screen doesn’t end there. Ginny Baker may be the focus and the star of the show, but each lady we’ve met so far has been nothing less than a force of nature. Amelia is not messing around. Just as much as Ginny’s playing hardball with the boys, so is Amelia, who has never been a sports agent in her life and had to drop Clooney to take on Ginny. And yet, she’s got this. She won’t let anyone push her, or Ginny, around. She radiates power, a queen in her own right.

Later in the episode, we also meet Evelyn (Meagan Holder), wife of Blip (Mo McCrae) and, seemingly, the only friend Ginny may have. They’re opposite in so many ways, from the brief moments we see them together – where Ginny is a tomboy and more introverted, focused and cool, Evelyn bursts into the room with energy, feminine and extroverted, hilariously wonderful. It’s one of the few scenes – maybe the only scene – where Ginny seemed genuinely at ease, totally young and herself. Evelyn brought a little levity to Ginny’s pity party, a few laughs and was offering what no one else was: friendship.

It’s hard not to love Evelyn in an instant.

The Lineup

On that note, it’s hard not to love her husband Blip instantly, either. He and Ginny have played together before, old friends, and Blip is – at least for most of the episode – the only welcoming face in the Padres’ locker room. He sees Ginny for what she is: a damn good pitcher. She’s not a marketing ploy or a problem like everyone else there (misogynistically) cries out, the babies.

To Blip, she’s just Ginny Baker, his friend, and a good ball player. Their relationship feels more (big) brother and (little) sister than anything – he tells off Tommy (Ryan Dorsey) for all his crap about Ginny (ends up throwing punches, too), and even dolls out some truth to Mike Lawson that seems to have made some impact. He’s honest, and he doesn’t overstep – Ginny can take care of herself – but he’s a defender of his friend, and he’s won our hearts for it.

Of course, we can’t get far into this review without talking about Mark-Paul Gosselaar, playing catcher and team captain Mike Lawson, essentially the prequel version of Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) in A League Of Their Own. He’s significantly more able-bodied, much less drunk (well, presumably), but just as grumpy and just as good. And here’s the thing: Mike seems about as thrilled as the rest of them that Ginny is here, sure. He’s not innocent when it comes to the jabs and gripes. But he seems kind of that way about, well, everything. That’s his personality – he’s been here awhile, getting a little too old for this maybe. But his gripes about Ginny seem more about her being a rookie than a girl, eventually.

And at the end of the day, she’s on his team, and he’s her catcher. On the field, he’s got her back – and he proves that in the end. It’s not all warmth and fluff, but that’s not Mike, it’s not really Ginny, and that’s the thing. His speech at the end, with all its casual humor and his give-no-shit attitude, is exactly what Ginny needed to hear to get herself working, again.

He reminds her to block it all out, stop playing for everyone, anyone else – just do it for herself.

Their relationship, I have to admit, is easily my favorite thus far on this show, and that’s saying something. There isn’t a weak cast member in sight, and everyone’s got an interesting dynamic with Ginny, with each other – and yet, Bunbury and Gosselaar standout. There’s something about Lawson and Baker that feels a little extra special. There’s respect there, even if begrudging on his part. It’s the special bond between a pitcher and catcher, and it’s there. They got it. He grounded her when she needed it.

Not to mention, for all his sass and bravado, Ginny already doesn’t just take his crap. He may have been a baseball hero of hers, and her captain, but Ginny Baker isn’t about to let anyone push her around.

Except, of course, her dad.

As a fan of The 100, I have to say; there was extra excitement in seeing Mike Beach back on my screen. He brought humanity to a hard to love character on The CW’s post-apocalyptic drama, and as Ginny’s father, he doesn’t seem to be too different. Papa Baker is pushy, impossible to please, and runs Ginny ragged. He’s hard, and there’s always more to be done. No matter what Ginny accomplishes, we see through flashbacks; it’s not enough.

“We ain’t done nothing, yet.”

And yet, you can’t just hate him. At one stunning point in a flashback, while he’s drilling young Ginny who is overtired, he calls her brother over and slaps him in front of Ginny, telling her to throw the pitch again or he gets hit again. When she does it, finally right, he looks her dead on and tells her, “See? You can do it when you need to.” Not exactly A+ parenting, I’ll admit.

But he’s also the one who trained with her, who advocated for her, telling a local coach just to give her a chance and see what she can do. He’s hard to love, hard to hate, and that’s the power of Beach.

In one particularly stellar scene, after a disastrous first game with the Padres where she choked, throwing bad pitches left, right and everywhere but down the middle, her father visits her in her hotel room, and we see a rare moment from Ginny where she’s not her usual vision of coolness.

She breaks down, screaming at him, crying out that he made her a robot in cleats, and now she’s broken. She has no friends, no life, nothing but this – and even that’s not working, telling him what he did to her wasn’t right.

And he just stares at her, waits before asking if she’s done. That was that.

They go back to the stadium and do what they do best – she pitches to him, pitch after pitch, into the night.

And then, of course, our hearts break when at the end of the episode, after her first successful game with the Padres, she goes back out on the field afterward, soaking it in.

In a flashback, we see what got her there – the day she was recruited, was the same day that she and her dad were in a car accident that killed him.

They went full Sixth Sense on us, and Mike Beach replaced Bruce Willis. He was dead the whole time, and we see glimpses of how it could be. Ginny’s just been seeing her dad, hearing his words, carrying his spirit with her.

It was a crushing twist, and adds that much more meaning to Ginny’s career.

On Deck…

There are shows that nail a pilot, but never really know where to go from there, never find their footing after their first hour, as if they poured everything into just that. There are shows who flounder for a few episodes until they find their footing, and then, it’s full steam ahead, maybe forever.

This one, I predict, is neither.

There was a full story happening here in the pilot. Ginny Baker, first woman pro-baseball player for the MLB, making history. She’s got this – until she does, until she embarrasses herself in front of millions, caving under pressure. She questions whether she does belong, whether she is right for this, whether she can – she’s human. And then, she does, with a little help from her support system and a reminder that she can.

It was great storytelling in the first hour, and it left the door open to plenty possibilities going forward. Where does Ginny go from here? Can she be consistent? Can she get the others, besides Blip and Lawson, to respect her? Will she and Lawson work together without any bumps in the road (doubtful), and how will they handle it? How will her personal life work? Will she get one?

There are enough strong characters, enough possible storylines, to last seasons if they do this right.
So, yes, if you were on the fence for any reason: Pitch is an 11/10, worth every minute of your time, and not to be missed.

Written by Caitlin Walsh

Uncool. Mostly winging it. I cry happy tears at cute animal videos. Sometimes I tweet things I think might be funny. Laugh with/at me @cwalsh93.

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