'Pitch' has been canceled, and it's hard to say goodbye

Big League Stew

The news came down on Monday night that the Fox baseball drama “Pitch” would not be renewed for a second season. The ten episodes, which aired from September through December of 2016, are all we’ll get to see of Ginny Baker and her experiences as the first woman to play in the majors. Fox cited struggling ratings as the reason behind the cancellation.

As you would expect, in the comments on every “Pitch” cancellation article and tweet, people were bemoaning the show’s early demise. And the vast majority of those people were women. “Pitch” gave women a baseball story they could see themselves in, a story they could relate to. Hollywood hasn’t done that successfully in nearly 25 years, since the film “A League of Their Own” was released. It might have been fictional, but “Pitch” let women know that baseball could be for them, too.

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“Pitch” wasn’t a perfect show. It had issues that it needed to work out. Ginny was the main character, but she was usually the least interesting person on the show. The burgeoning romance between Ginny and her catcher Mike Lawson was extremely ill-advised. The flashbacks were a neat and convenient storytelling device, but they kept getting in the way of the flow of the present-day story.

But none of these were fatal flaws. All the elements of a compelling show were there, and the framework of baseball had endless storytelling possibilities. Given more time, the show could have smoothed everything out, and found more meaningful places to go with the story.

Fixing those issues would have highlighted several already-great performances. Kylie Bunbury played Ginny with an uncontainable determination that burned underneath a tough yet graceful surface. Mark-Paul Gosselaar was charming, fun and sexy, and having more fun playing Mike Lawson than should be legally allowed. And they were supported by a solid cast, playing characters that felt fully realized.

Kylie Bunbury as Ginny Baker in Fox’s “Pitch.” (Fox.com)
Kylie Bunbury as Ginny Baker in Fox’s “Pitch.” (Fox.com)

The cancellation of “Pitch” is disappointing, but it highlighted a few important points. First, the outcry from women proves that there’s an audience for this kind of show, i.e. a female-centered sports drama (or even a comedy). And second, women are interested in sports, and don’t need to be talked down to about them. The baseball in “Pitch” wasn’t exactly complex, but it was beyond the basics. And the show trusted that viewers who didn’t know baseball would be able to pick it up as the show went along, or at least understand the broad concepts.

The world of “Pitch” was a world where women weren’t catered to with pink jerseys and bedazzled hats. There was a woman in baseball, and she was inspiring other girls and women to follow her, and follow in her footsteps. And that’s the worst loss here. “Pitch” mattered because in the world of the show, women were actually making Major League Baseball pay attention to them. Escaping to that alternate reality for an hour a week was welcome, especially since MLB and most teams still have no idea how to treat their female fans. In “Pitch,” women were important in and important to baseball. The real world is, well, a lot different.

“Pitch” gave women a chance to see themselves in baseball. It gave female fans hope that one day the game they love might want them, both as fans and as players. The end of “Pitch” isn’t the end of that dream, but it still hurts. Ginny Baker may not have been real, but watching her pitch in a real uniform in a real stadium, it felt like it could be one day. People who say it was just a TV show don’t understand: seeing a woman in baseball on TV every week was exciting and hopeful.

That’s why “Pitch” mattered, and why it’s so hard to say goodbye.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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