Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Spoilers through Pitch Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Watching the series premiere of Pitch had me experiencing a whole spectrum of emotions. I got chills, I held my breath in anticipation and out of anxiety, and tears filled my eyes during the touching and heartwarming scenes. Hands down, Pitch has one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen.
Pitch tells the story of Ginny Baker, the first female to play in a major sports league. Ginny is preparing to pitch her first game in Major League Baseball for the San Diego Padres. She also happens to be the starting pitcher.
The entire nation has their eyes on Ginny – half of whom consist of sexist naysayers who are just waiting for her to fail and pounce on any mistake she makes. The other half are people waiting for her to break that glass ceiling and prove that a woman can survive the insurmountable barriers and prove to be just as good, if not better.
And as with every major story in America, the media is having a field day with this one. On the way to the stadium, a male newscaster exclaims that Ginny being called up to the big leagues is the biggest story since OJ, but he “hopes this one has a happier ending.” What a horribly weird thing to say! You are going to compare this to OJ?
This is followed by a female newscaster saying that anyone who says that she was only called up because she is a woman is “a backwards thinking, backward cap wearing, male pattern baldness hiding man. So bitch and moan all you want gentlemen but tonight a girl is gonna be the lead sports story in the world. And if that upsets you, well, maybe you’re just getting your period.” What an amazing fucking quote. I played that over multiple times and reveled in the glory of it. I want to get that quote framed and hang it in my living room.
One thing that I really like about Pitch is their use of sports and news commentators throughout. It allows viewers to see both sides of the argument in a way we would see it in the real world instead of coming across as exposition.
And just as you would expect, when Ginny walks into the Padres locker room she is greeted with a warm welcome and the same words of encouragement all teams give the rookies who hold the fate of the game in their hands.
JUST KIDDING! This is ‘Merica, guys!
Ginny gets a very cold welcome when she meets that team. Luckily there is one friendly face in the locker room, her old teammate and friend Blip Sanders (Mo McRae), who whole-heartedly has her back. Ginny is then led to her own private locker room (aka a storage closet) where she is given her jersey, number 43, one up from Jackie.
During warm-ups Ginny finally meets the scruffy, somewhat charmingly egotistical star catcher Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar). Ginny gives him a mouthful after he slaps her ass, but Lawson is having none of it. He tells her that he is an ass-slapper. Period. He slaps the gross pimply asses of all his teammates and if she wants to be on this team she will have to deal with him slapping her cute petite ass. These words of encouragement from the team captain finally make Ginny feel like she is part of the team. But later, as she is getting ready in her makeshift locker room she hears Lawson and the boys making fun of her from above.
It appears as though hearing the boys talk shit about her would light an even hotter fire under Ginny’s ass, and that she would thrive on proving them wrong, but when she gets to the mound nothing goes as she has planned. She throws ball after ball and wild pitch after wild pitch. It is uncomfortable to watch and everyone knows it. Some are heartbroken, some are mad, and some rejoice. After giving up a run due to another wild pitch she tells Lawson and the manager to take her out. As Ginny leaves the field, she sees her father looking back at her from the stands.
Ginny’s father, Bill, has has been the driving force in her becoming a major league pitcher. He wasn’t able to make it to the majors but god help him, one of his children will. After failing to get his son to show any interest in baseball, he noticed that Ginny had a pretty damn good arm.
Bill brings her to try out for the boys team, and won’t let the coach turn them away. Ginny is excited she got on the team but her father is not satisfied. There is a long road ahead for them. He sits her down and teaches her to throw a screwball by practicing on nectarines. Bill makes her pitch until she gets a strike even when she is tired.
One night when Ginny is beat and just wants to go inside for dinner, Bill refuses to let her go. Instead, her father decides to give her some motivation by punching her brother implying he would continue to do so if she didn’t throw a strike. When the next pitch she threw ends up being a strike her father responds with, “See you can do it when you have to.”
That night, after Ginny’s disastrous first game, her father comes to talk to her, but she isn’t in the mood. She yells at him, blaming him for putting her in this situation. Her whole life is baseball, she has no friends, no life, she is just what he created. She screams at him saying it wasn’t right what he did to her, that she was just a little girl. Her father doesn’t flinch and once she finishes her rant, he tells her to get her glove and they head down to the field to throw some more pitches.
Even though Ginny faltered at her first time as a major league pitcher, the San Diego Padres decide not to send her back down to the minors – a decision that sends the sports world and media into a frenzy. One sportscaster thinks keeping Ginny on “Just shows… I don’t know, what the hell does this show? If you can’t throw the ball over the plate, but you’re really pretty, you get to play in the big leagues?” And here is the thing, I understand being angry that Ginny gets another chance after a monumental screw up. This isn’t little league, this is major league baseball and you don’t always get second chances. But how does her physical appearance or level of attractiveness come into play here? Are you saying women only get things because they are attractive? If she was an unattractive woman they wouldn’t have given her a second chance? The only reason Ginny is kept on the team is because it would be a PR disaster if the Padres sent the first woman to start down to the minors after one game. That has NOTHING to do with her appearance, it has to do with this very unique situation the team is in.
On the eve of Ginny’s second chance as the Padres starting pitcher Blip takes Lawson out for some drinks to talk some sense into him. If Lawson wants to finally get that ring he has been aching for, Ginny is his way in. Ginny needs his support, she is a rookie, she is scared. She needs to know her captain and catcher has her back. And Blip ends it with “This girl is your legacy.” You’re my boy, Blip!
And unfortunately the second night out starts off the same way the first one did- with a wild pitch. But then Lawson decides to step the fuck up, act like a captain, and gives her an awesome pep talk.
“I’ve been watching you this past week, Baker. Seems like you’ve got a lot of people telling you who you’re doing this for and I wonder if it’s not about time you start doing this for yourself. Just you. Screw all of the attention and you know what, screw all those adorable little girls in the crowd with their Ginny Baker signs because you’re not a Girl Scout leader rookie. You’re a ball player. You do this for you. You do this for your team, or you don’t do it at all. Because you can’t aim your pitches if you’re aiming to please everyone.”
And this is the issue. This is what the media, both those who were counting on her to represent them and those waiting for her to fail didn’t understand. This is not the same as another pitcher being called up. The entire world is not watching this intently when this happens for a random pitcher. They get to the mound and yes, they are nervous and excited because this is the moment THEY have been waiting for their whole life. They want to make their family and those who supported them along the way proud but that is where it stops. They don’t represent something bigger. Their individual failure neither diminishes the previous accomplishments of male athletics nor hinders the future progress of men in sports. That is what Ginny had to deal with when she stepped on the mound these first two times. That is a lot of pressure to just push out of your mind especially when you do not have the support of your team.
But now she does have the support of her team, or her catcher at least, and that is all she needed. And with that, Ginny is back in play and throws a perfect strike immediately followed by a ground out to first. And as the game starts rolling, The Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil” starts playing in the background sung by a woman.
After the game Ginny walks out to the field and looks around letting it all sink in and her father comes out to greet her. But as it turns out, her father isn’t really there because he died in a car crash in 2010. He died while driving home from State Championship winning game where she was recruited to the Padres minor league team with Ginny in the seat next to him. And so it wasn’t her father she was pitching to after the first night starting for the Padres, it was the drive inside of her. The drive he instilled in her that they worked on together. And finally after her first major league appearance she is able to get his approval even if he wasn’t physically there.
I am very excited for where Pitch is headed and am 100% ready to take the ride with them. One thing I loved about this episode were the small details that were left in. In the opening scene such as two nectarine gift baskets from Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ellen DeGeneres.
They didn’t need to put this small touch in, and many may have even missed it, but I love a show that pays close attention to details.
ALSO: Does anyone know who sings the cover of Sympathy for the Devil from this episode? Shazam failed me on this one!
Pitch airs Thursdays on Fox.