Kylie Bunbury stars as baseball player Ginny Baker in FOX’s new show, “Pitch.” Baker is a screwball specialist called up from Triple-A for a supposedly brief stint with the San Diego Padres, making history as the first woman to play in any of the four major American sports leagues. The show, produced in partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB), is advertised as “a true story on the verge of happening.” Baker wears number 43, chosen because it is one up from 42, the number retired across all major league teams after being worn by Jackie Robinson. Robinson is famous for being the first African American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era.
Due to FOX’s partnership with MLB, games are shot in Petco Park using the cameras that film real games. It is difficult not to get chills watching Baker take the mound in a symbolic moment that hardly seems fictitious. As an aspiring sport videographer, watching “Pitch” is a visual storytelling delight. Additionally, “Pitch” does a great job of capturing the magnitude of potential historical moments, which is especially exciting to me, as someone interested in capturing these moments as they transpire in reality.
The future of baseball is uncertain, but there is no physical or genetic reason why a woman could not pitch in the majors. Young female pitchers are often pressured to switch sports once they outgrow Little League. If they do not switch to softball, they play on teams of all boys s and the camaraderie of playing with other women.
I am no expert on baseball and I am certainly not an expert on pitching, but I do know that being a great pitcher requires more than power, strength and athleticism, though those components are extremely important. Pitching requires focus, confidence and technique, which are not necessarily dictated by one’s gender. A woman cannot naturally deliver a fastball with the same velocity as a man, but that does not mean she cannot find ways to excel as a pitcher — Baker is a great example of a potential reality, mastering a unique, barely hittable pitch — the screwball. Being able to throw quality strikes is arguably more important than throwing at high, hard-to-control speeds. Additionally, according to Steve Johnson, orthopedic surgeon at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, women usually have more laxity in their tendons, which makes female pitchers more limber and less likely to suffer career ending injuries.
In the opening of the pilot episode, Ginny Baker steps out of a limousine in front of Petco Park on game day, following her call-up. A crowd of people are lined up, awaiting her monumentally significant arrival. Hoisted on her father’s shoulders is a young girl with a sign that reads “I’m Next.” Somewhere today, there could very well be a lone, young girl in a bullpen, preparing to change the game she loves. If she does, I want be there to tell her story. In a nation on the verge of electing a female to the highest office attainable, there is no reason to think baseball too will not soon be changing.