Note: this review contains spoilers for all currently aired episodes of Pitch
When we last saw Ginny Baker, she was coming off the high of her first win, only to have the clubhouse fall apart in fisticuffs (or, to use my most beloved baseball term–donnybrooks) over animosity about her presence.
We also learned, in the shocking final moments, that her domineering–but beloved–father was actually dead, and it was her memory of him propelling Ginny forward. This was a tricky twist to throw into the mix because it threatened to devolve quickly into “Is Ginny nuts, she’s talking to a ghost” territory. Blessedly the second episode chooses to completely ignore this, so I’m hoping Michael Beach can be used sparingly throughout the remainder of the season to keep his presence a welcome one for viewers.
The show does maintain its interspersed flashbacks format, with a character dropping a line like “why did you come see me play in Texas?” and then us going back to Ginny’s days pitching in the San Antonio minors, where she meets Agent Amelia for the first time.
Amelia’s initial ice-cold professional veneer doesn’t melt in this new episode. She continues to believe she knows what’s best for Ginny, and Ginny, in turn, finds a way to stand on her own feet and do what she believes is best for herself. What the writers do manage, in the final minutes of the episode, is to give us some insight into what would motivate a Hollywood agent to sign a relatively unknown young pitcher as a client. Amelia goes through a significant and jarring personal life change, and it leads her to quit her big Hollywood job, in a light homage to Jerry Maguire, with a knowing wink at the silliness of Hollywood in general. This decision to collapse Amelia’s home life is interesting, because they’ve painted her as such a career-minded individual that it’s hard to imagine her boat being rocked, especially by something so maternal. Ali Larter is handling the role well, and if she can continue to layer in depth to Amelia’s stony surface she will be a very interesting character to watch.
The episode focuses a lot on Ginny trying to fit in with her teammates. They dismiss her presence on the team bus, with the exception of Mike, and she is trying desperately to prove herself as just “one of the guys.” It’s clear they can’t get over her being a woman, especially when they hang on her every word after one asks her if she’s ever hooked up with another player. The episode proves she has a long way to go for them to totally accept her presence in the clubhouse, especially when comments emerge from the manager about how pretty Ginny is. In a later moment between Ginny and manager Al, his apology to her is old-guard but touching. This is an old man who knows he is out of touch with the world. He’ll never be able to overlook that Ginny is a woman–and a pretty one–but he lets her known in no uncertain terms that he also knows she is a valuable addition to their team. Ginny, in turn, fights with Amelia to publicly accept Al’s apology.
The minor stuff –
There is a subplot with a female broadcaster–Rachel–played by Joanna Garcia Swisher, who is a vocal feminist and also Mike’s soon to be ex-wife. She is covering a rape scandal that is very clearly meant to mirror the Stanford case. She wants a comment from Ginny on women’s place in locker rooms, and while Ginny initially dismisses her, she later makes a statement on Kimmel that was wonderful (and pretty bold of the show to tackle), saying that the onus should not be on the woman to avoid being raped, but rather men to not rape.
I hope this isn’t the last we see of Rachel, only because Joanna Garcia Swisher is actually married to a pro-baseball player (Nick Swisher) and I think her performance as a player’s (ex) wife could have some real gravitas.
As for Mike, I’m less sold on Mark Paul Gosselaar’s performance this week. His quieter moments, like the scene with him and Rachel, were great, but his big locker room speech felt a bit forced. He definitely looks the part of the big-league catcher, but a bit more subtlety might be the key.
Manager Al is replaced by the team’s owner, but in the end they don’t play it for a lot of emotional punch like one might expect, especially given how much they softened him with his earlier interactions with Ginny.
Blip and Evelyn’s marriage serves as a minor background story, with Blip desperate to find a lucky slump-busting shirt. It’s a sweet nod to major league superstitions, and let’s the audience see more of how sweet these two are together. It’s a nice juxtaposition between their rock-hard commitment to Mike’s looming divorce and Amelia’s past split with her husband. It shows not all marriages need to be sources of drama or discord. Evelyn is intensely supportive of her husband and his career, and the interplay between the two is adorable, especially when she teases him about her crush on Mike Trout.
We also meet Ginny’s adult brother Will in flashbacks (I’m dead convinced he’s named after Willy Mays, and the show better address that). Their interactions are sweet, and it’s obvious he stepped up to fill the gap left behind by her father. I hope we’ll see more of him later.
Overall the show continues going strong, with new threads weaved in this week (what was up with that final moment between Mike and Amelia at the bar?) and great opportunities to develop. The music by Black Violin is great, and the sprinklings of real baseball throughout warmed my heart (Dodger stadium, you so pretty).
Minorest quibble? They kept saying “waved off” for Ginny dismissing pitch calls. I’d only ever heard the phrase as “shake off” so this jarred me.
Pitch airs on Fox Thursday at 9/8c. You can catch the episodes the following day on Hulu or Fox Online.