Tonight’s episode of Pitch proved to me why this show can appeal to non sports fans while being basically a dream come true to people who like sports. It’s about baseball, yes, but it’s not just about the games themselves. It’s about the people on a sports team, the struggles they face, their attempts to perform well while taking care of their personal lives.
Yeah, athletes are really privileged. They get fame and fortune without ever having to go to school. They get tons of attention without ever contributing anything to the world besides meaningless entertainment. But it’s a hard life. Athletes get very little say in their lives, because they’re expected to place their athletic achievement at a higher importance than their personal lives. These sacrifices they have to make don’t just affect the athletes themselves. They affect everyone around them. That’s what we saw in Pitch this week.
Take the pity date
Everyone knows that Ginny didn’t get into the All-Star game because of her baseball abilities, but because of her popularity with the fans. And when she’s taking a spot away from Blip, that’s kind of awkward.
But as they say at the beginning of the episode, she’s a star, even if she isn’t the best player in the league. The fans want to see her go up against the best players the sport has to offer. Not to mention how motivational the experience can be.
I also love that Ginny was able to laugh off her failure in the game. It shows that she’s gained confidence and become more comfortable in the league. Sure, pundits will use it as a way to tear her down and argue that she doesn’t belong in the MLB, but that clearly doesn’t bother her anymore. I love that.
The Sanders family is the best family
I absolutely adore Evelyn, Blip, and their kids. We didn’t get to see much of them last episode, but this one made up for it, with an interesting arc that dove into both the struggles of balancing personal and professional life as an athlete, and the difficulties of being the spouse of a famous athlete. Blip wanted to be in the all-star game, as we’ve known since the beginning of the season, but that would mean cancelling a family vacation. And when he had to do exactly that, Evelyn didn’t take it very well.
I’m always baffled when people assume I only watch sports because I want to marry an athlete. First of all, it’s ridiculous that they think a girl can’t enjoy sports. Second, who on earth would ever want that life?
Your spouse is constantly on the road, or training for the next game. You have to take care of the kids, and the house, and anything that gets in the way of your spouse’s career, because you’re told that the success of the team is more important than anything else. Your spouse could get seriously injured at any moment. You could be forced to uproot your life and move to another city at any moment. I have mad respect for every woman who puts up with this.
The Sanders family handles it pretty well. They clearly all love each other a lot, Evelyn and the kids are enthusiastic about Blip’s career, and Blip tries his best to make time for his family. But like any family, they have problems. Evelyn has a right to be frustrated at the lack of time Blip has to spend with her and the kids. Even when she’s his number one fan, she’s allowed to wish his career didn’t take over every moment of his life. And though Blip should be more understanding of the struggles Evelyn faces, it’s true that he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter.
You know how TV writers always seem to think you can’t have drama in a relationship without breaking couples up? This is proof that you can. I love that Pitch is portraying such a healthy, supportive relationship while acknowledging the difficulties they face. This isn’t something that’s going to create a huge rift in the family. They’re not going to break up or anything. It’s just something that they need to acknowledge, accept, and learn to live with. The All-Star game is more important than Disney World, yeah, but that doesn’t mean Blip can’t find time for his family.
What if I’m coming to the end of phase one, and it turns out I’m no good at phase two?
When I started this show, I assumed Mike would be a player for as long as he was a series regular. After all, what’s interesting about a retired athlete?
I was wrong. There is so much this show can explore about retiring from sports. Because like I said, Pitch isn’t just about baseball itself. It’s about the athletes, the people involved in the team. It’s about being a girl in a male-dominated sport. It’s about figuring out how to spend time with your family when you’re always on the road. And it’s about realizing that you’re no longer good at the thing you’ve built your entire life around.
Mike Lawson has always been good at baseball. As he admitted, he got a home run in his very first game. There was never any doubt that he would make a career out of it. And now, he’s reached the end. And suddenly he’s facing uncertainty.
Let’s be completely honest here: Mike Lawson is definitely going to get job in broadcasting. Have you seen the lineups on those panels? The number one criteria is not that you know your stuff, it’s that you be an old white guy who’s played the game before. If you’re a fan favourite, that’s even better.
But Mike doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would be complacent with that. He doesn’t want to be Glenn Healey, shouting nonsense about heart and compete level and prompting everyone watching at home to mute their TV. He wants to be good as his job. As we saw on the panel, this guy is really passionate about baseball, and he knows all about it. But in order to get that job in broadcasting, he’ll actually need to work hard at it.
I can give you a home
In this episode, we also saw Oscar Arguella leave the all-star game to chase down a young Cuban catcher he hoped he could convince to sign with the Padres. Knowing perfectly well that he couldn’t offer as much money as the Yankees, he instead played up the location, the staff, the environment. He made a heartfelt plea to the young player, revealing a little bit about his own childhood along the way.
One of the worst aspects of playing professional sports is that most of the time, you don’t get a say in where you end up. You’re drafted into the league at eighteen, and unless you decide to pull a Lindros and demand a trade, you’re stuck with that franchise, and consequently that city. If you’re not happy, you can demand a trade, but there’s no guarantee it will happen quickly, or that the team you’re coveting will be in a position to trade for you.
That’s why free agency is so wonderful. You get to decide your future for yourself. Do you want to go to a contender? An up-and-coming team with good prospects? The team that offers you the most money? Or the one with the nicest people, that gives you the best chance to improve as a player?
And honestly, as a young player, the last option is usually the best one. A team like the Padres can give you a good start, and a stimulating environment. In the end, I wasn’t surprised to see the catcher sign with the Padres, and not just because this show is about them. This kid is smart enough to understand that a little bit more money won’t buy him happiness. He can sign a mega-million dollar deal to live under a microscope in New York City, or he can come into a good environment in San Diego. He made the right decision.
Or maybe I just like seeing this strategy work out because my sports team’s free agent pitch is essentially “We’re broke and terrible but we promise we’ll treat you better than Toronto.”
Baseball destroyed my marriage
Rounding up the emotional take on life as an athlete is Ginny’s trying relationship with her mom. Though the pilot gave us a pretty good idea of who Bill Baker was, this time we really got to see the effect he had on his family.
We already knew that Ginny’s dad was obsessive and controlling, that he pushed her much harder than he should have and made her feel like baseball was more important than anything else in her life. But in The Break, he proved that he was even worse than that. His entire life revolved around baseball. A trip to the mall had to include oil for Ginny’s glove. Earrings were unnecessary. Going to a school dance would mean the end of Ginny’s career.
While Evelyn and Blip are an example of how couples can work to balance sports and real life, Ginny’s parents show how things can go horribly wrong.
In the flashbacks, we saw Ginny find out about her mom’s affair, and keep it a secret. We saw how betrayed she felt, and we understood that her relationship with her mother was never the same again. Which is sad because it’s clear that for a long time Janet served as a barrier between Ginny and Bill, insisting that her daughter be allowed to have a normal life, assuring her over and over again that she was loved, and important, and that if she ever needed someone to stand up to Bill, she would be there.
Janet was a good mom. And you can’t help but feel bad for her when she sees that her daughter is still putting baseball first, still blowing her off. She doesn’t fully understand what baseball means to Ginny. I guess they both need to understand each other in order to fully repair their relationship.
- That montage of fans who want her in the All-Star game. SO CUTE.
- I love it when Ginny’s teammates tease her about her fame and you can tell they genuinely admire her.
- There’s the Lawson poster on the wall!
- Umm… where was Willie at that family dinner? WHERE WAS WILLIE? I’m starting to get very nervous about his fate.
- I don’t know how I ever could have hated Al. His speech about taking the pity date was spot on, and Oscar’s description of him was so heartfelt.
- It looks like there’ll be a bit of tension between Mike and the new guy. Signing him after he says he’s not sitting behind Mike Lawson sends a pretty clear message.
- I ship Ginny and Mike as friends so hard. I definitely don’t see any sexual tension there at all, but this relationship is truly amazing to watch.
Pitch airs Thursdays at 9pm on Fox.