Fox's new baseball drama Pitch isn't impressive only for it's empowering story about the first female Major League Baseball player, but also because its stylistically beautiful.
Beauty costs money though, especially when you're filming baseball games with professional sports camera equipment. Though the premiere episode features two lengthy baseball sequences, — one from each of the baseball games that Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) plays in as the starting pitcher — it's unlikely that you'll be seeing that much actual baseball in future episodes.
"Some [episodes] have a lot of baseball and some only have a couple of minutes. We're doing an episode that has an entire act of baseball and the whole beanball feud between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Padres. It kind of varies based on the story that we want to tell," executive producer and pilot director Paris Barclay explains to TVGuide.com. "There's one episode that takes place just in the four days between her first start and her second start pitching. We're trying to mix it up so that we can tell the personal stories as well."
The cost dilemma is not an unfamiliar one, and may actually be something that helps Pitch balance between being a sports drama and a drama that tells human stories. NBC's Friday Night Lights had trouble recruiting fans because people wrongly assumed the show would be constant football sequences, though anyone who's seen the critically acclaimed series knows it was a drama about human relationships first and a drama about high school football second. Pitch will do the same balance work with its subject matter.
But when Pitch is about baseball, it has a distinct advantage over most sports shows. Pitch has an unprecedented deal with Major League Baseball which allows them to film in Petco Park, the same stadium MLB's San Diego Padres play in, to give the show an extra layer of authenticity. Pitch had to get creative about filming schedules to not only cut costs but to be able to work around the real San Diego Padres' schedule. The team goes down to San Diego for blocks at a time to film the baseball sequences for multiple episodes and then films the non-game footage on their soundstage in Los Angeles.
"The Padres have been very cooperative with us," executive producer Rick Singer tells TVGuide.com. "We just went down there for a week to shoot five episodes worth of baseball sequences. We're able to get access without having to go down there every week, which is just not tenable production wise. We're able to get ahead enough script-wise to know what the big sequences for several episodes in a row are going to be. We're shooting it more like a movie that way...We also shot at Dodger Stadium, which was amazing. We get ahead of the ball, no pun intended, and shoot all of our baseball sequences all at once."
Pitch also has a secret weapon in keeping the style of the episodes consistent. Barclay will direct three more episodes besides the pilot, and has also taken on a mentor-type role for the other guest directors. He provides them with tips and advice based on what he learned with the pilot to help everyone keep a streamlined look for the show.
"What I do is help [the directors] learn what I think makes the pilot work and use some of those skills and stylistic devices in the later episodes," Barclay says. "The number-one thing is taking care of Ginny Baker/Kylie Bunbury. She's the core of [Pitch]... I ask all the directors to pay special mindful attention to her because without her we don't have a show."
Pitch continues Thursdays at 9/8c on Fox.