Review: Fox’s ‘Pitch’ should please most baseball fans

There’s nothing about Pitch that will turn baseball fans off.The acting is fine. The technical aspects are fine. The writing is fine (even with melodramatic fare such as I’m a robot in cleats and I’m malfunctioning!).What baseball fans want to know, though, is how the baseball plays out. Not just how it lookson the field, but also how authentic it feels away from it.And in that respect, the baseball in «Pitch»is fine with quality, too making the total package more than compelling enough to earn a spot in your fall TV lineup.MORE: The 13 best baseball TV episodes ever, ranked The story, as you know by now, revolves around Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), whose call-up by the Padres for a spot start also happens to break the gender barrier and brings the expected media circus. The pilot offers glimpses at her origin story, which is driven by a somewhat overbearing father, a former pitcher who seems to be living vicariously through his daughter’s Drew Smyly Jersey talent. There’s not much nuance to their relationship, but we get the idea that she’s driven more by a desire to please him than a sincere desire to play baseball.Unlike many sports-themed TV shows, Pitch features an actual, real-life major league team. Having the full participation of MLB and its Fox-related personalities (Joe Buck, John Smoltz and others) helps a lot in the way of realism, even if on a subconscious level. When shows are about a fictional team with fictional announcers and fictional characters played by actors who don’t look athletic, it already has a strike against it with fans looking for even a sliver of realism. But there’s a familiarity here that helps ease us in to this Hollywood-ized reality.MORE: A look at past baseball-themed TV series (most were bombs)The interaction between Baker and her new teammates is believable enough, though the usual clichs are there. There’s the reluctance to accept an unproven, perhaps undeservingaddition to the team. There’s the expected sexism and chauvinistic comments from lug-headed jerks. There’s the sa sy, jaded veteran (Mark Paul Go selaar) who reluctantly goes along with everything. There’s the crusty This is my team! manager («Wonder Years» veteran Dan Lauria) who feels put out by it all.But, predictably, Baker isn’t intimidated and is plenty able to hold her own among all the testosterone.None of this is fatal because it’s probably pretty close to what would/will happen when a women joins a major league team. Still, these relationships aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. Dan Lauria, left, Mark Paul Go selaar andKylie Bunburyin a scene from «Pitch.» (Fox) As for the actual baseball, as in the action portrayed on the field, it’s as realistic as you’ll see in a Hollywood production. Which is to say, the action looks like real baseball action. The only caveat is more a technical i sue than anything: When Baker pitches, the trajectory and movement of the ball has a tendency to look fake-ish. Something looks off, like it doesn’t match her arm motion. Again, though, this is something we can forgive.MORE: Lots of woment aren’t happy with sexist ‘Pitch’ tweetBut the most unbelievable/unlikely, aspect of the show is Baker’s trick pitch that got her noticed by major league scouts. In one flashback, her father tells her that biology won’t allow a woman to throw Kosuke Fukudome Jersey as hard as a man, at least not at a level acceptable for the major leagues, so he introduces her to the screwball, confident it can be her meal ticket.Well, the screwball barely qualifiesa trick pitch. Fernando Valenzuela and others made a career out of it, as it’s certainly a hard pitch to hit if done right, but it’s a questionable one if you’re looking to stand out and blaze a path to the majors.MORE: The best sports-themed TV shows of all time, ranked (Not to mention that when Baker’s father shows her the grip for the screwball, heactuallydemonstrates a circle changeup.)A more realistic meal-ticket pitch would be the knuckleball, a legitimate trick pitch, which seems a more likely equalizer that could baffle hitters enough to warrant big-league attention.But this is ultimately a minor plot point. The show really isn’t about her screwball, the rest of her arsenal or even baseball itself. It’s about the pre sure of being a trailblazer, the pre sure to succeed, the journey of discovery and the bumps along the way.In telling this story, «Pitch» keeps usinterested and wanting to learn more making itworth any baseball fan’s time.Grade: B «Pitch» debuts at 9p.m. ET Thursday on Fox. (CORRECTION: A previous version of this story listed an incorrect air time.)

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