Fall TV Preview

Pitch Team on 'Making the West Wing of Baseball,' Fielding Sexist Pushback

Fox’s Pitch is about Major League Baseball’s first female pitcher, but the action won’t always take place on the field.

Though the “very expensive” pilot went out of its way to employ actual Fox Sports technology and talent to sell the grand scale of a big-league match-up, executive producer Paris Barclay (who directed the first outing), says future drama will come from outside the baselines as much as between them.

“We’re making the West Wing of baseball here, showing you how it works but in a way that’s very personal,” Barclay said on Monday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “It won’t always be about whether [Ginny Baker, played by Kylie Bunbury] wins this game or that game.” Evoking Aaron Sorkin’s White House drama again, EP Kevin Falls said there will be “some walk and talks” in the sprawling set built to mimic the belly of the Padres’ PETCO Park.

The cast and producers were also asked during their TCA panel if they anticipate any “pushback” from people who, for one reason or another, take issue with the very idea of a female MLB player.

“Who would really be against this?” asked exec producer Dan Fogelman. “If a young woman came along who’s capable of playing with the guys, I can’t think of a person who wouldn’t be interested in seeing it.”

As for how realistic Pitch‘s premise is, Fogelman said that although the limits of human anatomy “make it a challenge” (and are addressed in the pilot), “I think this is going to happen in my lifetime. I think the right young woman is going to come along, sooner rather than later.”

Other topics tackled during the Pitch panel:

* After landing the role of Ginny, Bunbury had two-and-a-half months to learn how to pitch. She, costar Mark-Paul Gosselaar (who plays the Padres’ catcher) and others train two to three times a week during production.

* Speaking of Gosselaar, his impressive beard was a dictate from Fogelman, who felt the Saved by the Bell alum “has been on our TVs an awful long time,” so “it felt like a cool physical transformation.” Plus, along with packed-on muscle, “He looks like a major league ballplayer,” which real-life pros have told Fogelman themselves.

* Fogelman said that the freshman series’ initial 13-episode order will lead up to the end of the (fictional) Padres’ baseball season. If there is a “back 9” pick-up, the episodes will cover spring training. Other storylines on tap include Ginny’s four-day routine between starts, the quality of her hitting (ignored in the pilot in part because Bunbury hadn’t trained for that yet), what it’s like for her to be targeted in a beanball brouhaha and trade deadlines/clauses. And while — spoiler alert! — these Padres will not be going to the World Series, they will “be relevant” within the league.

* Carefully talking around a pilot-ending development that he prays remains unspoiled, Fogelman’s hoped-for viewer reaction is, “I get this girl in a different way now.”