In May, one of the first changes that came after Fox’s upfront presentation was the shift of the new baseball drama “Pitch” from next spring to Thursdays this fall.
While the move is a natural, given the network’s rights to the World Series — along with, as cited during a Monday morning session at the Television Critics Assn. press tour, the delay of ABC’s ratings-grabbing “Scandal” — the show has also begun to generate buzz for its central story about the first woman to compete in Major League Baseball.
“This is project for which history caught up with it,” said executive producer and veteran filmmaker Tony Bill (“My Bodyguard,” “The Sting”), who had been pitching (so to speak) the script around Hollywood for roughly 10 years.
When asked if he was prepared for any controversy that could come out of a depiction of the breaking of Major League Baseball’s glass ceiling, series creator Dan Fogelman (also behind the NBC newcomer “This Is Us”) was optimistic.
“Maybe I’m naive, but I find it hard to fathom in the great wide world — who would really be against this?” he asked. “If a young woman comes along who is capable of playing with ‘the guys,’ I can’t think of a person who wouldn't be interested in seeing it.”
The discussion’s tone shifted when the panel was asked why a woman gets to be the center of a sports show on network TV only when playing a man’s game, as opposed to the sports where women already excel, such as soccer and softball.
“I think the big story here is the attention the world and this country would give that move,” Fogelman said. “There’s these four major North American sports right now. If a woman broke into one of them, it would be a monstrous story on a narrative scale.”
The panelists added that the show would primarily deal with the relationships surrounding the characters off the field. Executive producer Kevin Falls, who worked on “The West Wing” in the early ’00s, said to expect more walk-and-talks around the hallways of the stadium than in-game action.
Still, a sense of athletic authenticity remained a goal. Co-star Mark-Paul Gosselaar was asked to bulk up and grow a full beard to better resemble someone who would be a catcher with the San Diego Padres, the show’s chosen team. Series focal point Kylie Bunbury had to learn how to get the ball over the plate as well.
“When you grow up with sports, your body just recognizes it,” Bunbury said of her efforts to get a pitching motion down, which took roughly two weeks by her estimate. “It’s like a dance.”
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