Sports have been a central stage for social issues for decades, dating back to Jackie Robinson integrating baseball in the '40s to NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's current protest of the national anthem. Sports — especially baseball — are America's pastime. The millions of fans who show up to stadiums or watch games from the comfort of the couch are a perfect audience for presenting society's problems and forcing people to talk about them.
Enter Pitch, Fox's new baseball drama that hopes to capitalize on America's love for sports and use the television medium to bring forth issues currently relevant, and also presents an optimistic outlook for a possible near-future.
Kylie Bunbury stars as Ginny Baker, the first female to make a major league baseball team, and the show will center on all the drama that unfolds from her trying to make her mark in a male-dominated sport. She'll have to deal with the condescending opinions of her teammates and the team's staff, including the team's catcher and captain Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), the ambitious general manager Oscar (Mark Consuelos) and her agent Amelia Slater (Ali Larter), who wants to turn Ginny's career into a feminist revolution. On top of breaking one of the world's most protected glass ceilings and the corresponding pressure, Ginny Baker is black — adding a whole other social minefield to explore.
"What's interesting about sports in general is that it's a great mirror for society," executive producer Rick Singer tells TVGuide.com. "They are at the forefront of social issues, dating back to Jackie Robinson and long before that. That is one of the fun elements of it. We can deal with a woman in a man's world within the context of this show that translates in every aspect and happily coincides with Hillary Clinton's run for the presidency."
And Pitch has plenty of social issues to tackle. Bunbury is the only black female to lead a new broadcast show this fall. As Singer points out, Ginny Baker's story will unfold not only as Hillary Clinton vies to become the first female president but as Black Lives Matter protests continue in the wake of multiple shootings of black citizens at the hands of the police. Ginny's struggles won't be just getting her male teammates to accept her, but learning how to be a role model and a spokesperson as she goes from relative unknown to the biggest story in pop culture during the internet age.
"The media has evolved in such a way so exponentially that in many ways she has to deal with things that are far beyond what [Jackie Robinson] ever had to deal with. He didn't have to deal with the 24 hour news cycle and with people on Twitter. He only had to deal with the people he came in contact with," Singer says. "There are many challenges that [Ginny] comes up against that other athletes in the past haven't had to deal with, which makes it a fun modern day story."
If Fox can deliver a series that has a black female being an integral part of a Major League Baseball team's journey to glory, they'll not only be tapping into current forefront social issues but will be setting a pivotal example for the future of women in sports and inspiring generations to come. Thus, the real drama of Pitch isn't whether Ginny Baker can help the Padres make it to the World Series, but how she handles the pressure of her position both on and off the field.
"There are other stories going on, social issue stories and sexual assault cases [within the world of Pitch], and [Ginny] is now someone who everyone wants her opinion...she just wants to solidify her place in the major leagues, but obviously she's much more than just your average baseball player," Singer explains.
With the proliferation of women's sports like the U.S. National Soccer team, the WNBA and the recent round of the Olympics, as well as individual stars like tennis star Serena Williams, MMA fighter Ronda Rousey and Little League pitcher Mo'ne Davis, the time is right for a television show about a female athlete.
"It feels as though that things have aligned that women's sports have really come of age. You have an entire generation that's really grown up with women in sports," Singer says. "We've seen these stories rise and capture the nation and really show what an appetite there is. We haven't really seen these stories of women in sports fictionally, since the advent of all these athletes coming to dominate. That I find incredibly interesting and fun."
It remains to be seen whether Pitch can revolutionize the way women are seen in professional sports and in society in general, but just like Ginny Baker taking the mound, it has the potential to change the game.
Pitch premieres Thursday, Sept. 22 at 9/8c on Fox.