San Diego, CA — Pitch, a new FOX series about the first woman to play Major League Baseball, markets itself as a “game changer.” It’s a tagline and mantra that fits the story and the show’s philosophy perfectly. Not only does the show depict the first woman to pitch in Major League Baseball, it’s also the first network television show to be produced with MLB’s approval and support.
Ginny Baker — played by Kylie Bunbury (Under the Dome) — pitches for the San Diego Padres and the show is filmed on location at Petco Park (the team granted the show access to the park for two weeks during Spring Training). Pitch will have unprecedented access to official MLB team logos, locations and game footage (upcoming episodes will film at Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park in San Francisco). MLB also consults on game content to make sure America’s Pastime is depicted as authentically and realistically as possible. The show kicks off its promotion in conjunction with this year’s MLB All-Star Game on FOX which takes place Tuesday night at Petco Park.
“The condition for MLB to come on board was that we remain absolutely authentic to the game and to the players and to the stadiums and that appeals to real baseball fans,” said Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Saved By the Bell), who plays grizzled veteran catcher Mike Lawson and Ginny’s battery-mate and mentor on the Padres. “I always get taken out of shows that are about football, but it’s not actually the real teams. We’re actually THE Padres playing THE Dodgers and that’ll appeal to real fans.”
Gosselaar appeared at Monday’s PITCH media event sporting the thick beard he grew for the role. The former Saved By the Bell star is all grown up and cites veteran catchers David Ross (Cubs), Buster Posey (Giants) and Derek Norris (Padres) as inspirations for his character’s appearance and attitude.
But the show is designed to have broad appeal beyond passionate baseball fans. Its underdog story should be universal and will draw in casual and non-baseball fans as well.
“Being a purist and a big baseball fan, I was a little bit, ‘what’s this about?’” said veteran actor Mark Consuelos who plays Oscar Rivera, the Padres’ GM. “But the script is so good and the story is so strong. And after meeting Kylie and watching her throw, I thought it was going to be great.”
Ultimately, the show revolves around Ginny Baker and Bunbury, tasked with bringing this character to life in a once-in-a-lifetime role.
“I was completely inspired by the fact that this is a regular girl,” Bunbury said of her character. “She’s not a superhero; she’s a regular girl who has a gift. She’s capitalizing on it by working extraordinarily hard. She has incredible focus. And that’s important for young girls, for everyone to see. Work hard at something, you’ve got to put the work in. It’s an important message.”
Bunbury has also had to work extremely hard for the role. She had never thrown a pitch in her life before being cast as Baker. She comes from a family of athletes — her brother Teal plays for the MLS’ New England Revolution — and started training as soon as she got the part last year. She’s been working with a pitching coach — former MLB pitcher Gregg Olson — and watching lots of baseball as she continues to hone her pitching skills.
“I watch lots and lots of MLB Network,” Bunbury said. “Nolan Ryan, Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Felix Hernandez, Randy Johnson are all pitchers I like watching.”
The show’s creator Rick Singer (American Dad) recognized that in order to make a female MLB pitcher believable, Ginny needed to have a “nasty” pitch based on location and movement, and not on velocity. So what’s Ginny’s best pitch? A 60 mph screwball. And of course, Bunbury watched film of Los Angeles Dodgers legend Fernando Valenzuela to prepare.
As a “game changer” dealing with a controversial subject sure to stir up water cooler conversation, the stars of the show know there will be criticism.
“We wanted this to be as authentic as possible because we’re going to get haters, obviously,” Budbury said. “When you have haters that means you’re doing something right. We didn’t want this to be just another hokey show.
“But the thing that people need to remember is it’s still a television show. Let’s use our imaginations. This is us just living out an imaginary circumstance. I hope people give it a chance. It’s not just about baseball. It has a message. It’s meaningful and has a lot of heart. It’s about people and relationships. It’s gonna be pretty cool.”
Pitch premieres Thursday, Sept. 22 on FOX.