There were two big things I asked of Pitch after hearing that it was going to be on the fall schedule. One, make Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) the character my young, ball playing self would have loved to see on television for this generation’s young girl athletes. Second, do not have Ginny get romantically involved with her catcher Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar).
Pitch creator Dan Fogelman and his team of writers have completely delivered on the first point. Ginny isn’t perfect, but she’s real, strong, layered and intriguing, with Bunbury perfectly cast. However, in Thursday’s episode, “Scratched,” the Pitch team crossed the line and completely shattered my second wish for the show.
The episode centered on what could be Mike’s last game as a Padre since he could be traded to the Chicago Cubs at any time. Emotions were high all around the clubhouse over the mystery of whether or not their team leader was preparing for what was sure to be a very emotional goodbye. Meanwhile thanks to a new endorsement deal, Ginny garnered interest from VFX company CEO Noah (Tyler Hilton), who wooed her in several different adorably nerdy ways. By the end of the episode, Ginny left what many would say was a perfect first date with Noah to go meet Mike at the bar for one last drink. As the pair said their final goodbyes, they almost kissed before being interrupted by a phone call telling Mike he wasn’t going to be traded after all.
Therein lies my big problem. Why oh why did Pitch feel the need to cross the line between these two characters? The impending departure of Ginny’s mentor, friend and pseudo-coach Mike would’ve been high enough stakes without adding a romantic layer on top of everything. From that very first panic attack Ginny had on the mound in the pilot, these two have had the perfect mentor/mentee relationship. He was tough on her when she needed him to be and lightened up at always the right moment. They are great together. It doesn’t need to go further.
Crossing this line feels like nothing more than a ratings grab by the freshman series. This screams of a last ditch effort to get that Season 2 renewal. I mean I get that, unfortunately the show’s ratings are declining every week and the episode prior to this week saw the series’ smallest audience ever. So yes, logically the only way for this show I enjoy and so desperately want to exist in the TV landscape to be around for another year is if more people are watching.
I just really wish the show decided that a romance between Mike and Ginny was not the way to do that. Yes, people love love and the ‘shippers out there are always looking for a new couple to latch onto. I just really wanted Pitch to be better than that and why not do that through an external character? Why not have Ginny involved with someone completely outside of baseball? Oh you know, someone like the adorably charming Noah, with whom she clearly had chemistry? Let’s explore that relationship for awhile and leave the great friendship that exists between Mike and Ginny alone.
There are those that would say now that Mike is staying on the Padres the show can backtrack here, have Ginny date Noah and move forward as if nothing happened between Mike and Ginny. For me, the damage has already been done. What has been done cannot be undone and the most frustrating part is that this was all so unnecessary to the larger story.
Take the events of Episode 8 where Mike took a teammate aside to tell him that he’s crazy if he thinks he has real feelings for Ginny. He told Omar there was no way he could have anything more than a crush on Ginny because he didn’t know that she hates cilantro or that she hums Katy Perry tunes while stretching. As he told Omar this Mike realized he may be the one with true feelings for the pitcher. But why? Why did that moment have to turn romantic? It would have worked just as well coming from the guy who is Ginny’s mentor and Padres’ team captain. Easing clubhouse issues without having it mean that Mike has feelings for Ginny would’ve been completely normal and in character.
However, due to that awkward moment and out of left field (please excuse my baseball puns) scene, it meant that every Mike and Ginny interaction this week had an extra layer of subtext–something the official Pitch twitter account sure wasn’t going to let viewers forget.
— Pitch (@OfficialPITCHTV) December 2, 2016
Again I ask ‘why?’ Mike was uncertain about his future with the Padres and he didn’t know whether or not he was going to be playing his last game ever in San Diego. Not only that, he was playing the fact that it was him who actually requested the trade close to the vest in case it didn’t happen. It was clearly weighing on him and all his teammates who were unsure about whether or not they were about to lose their captain. The emotion and high stakes are already there.
Ginny is about to lose her mentor, the one person on the team she could always turn to for advice and to support her in a way no one else has been able to do. That fact alone is enough to drive up the drama here and all the romantic subtext on top of that is simply not needed. It’s 2016 and I 100 per cent believe that men and women are capable of being both teammates and friends without it turning into something more. In fact that was something I thought Pitch believed as well and had actually excelled at, of course up until these last couple of episodes. Not only is the working relationship and friendship between Ginny and Mike at the core of the show, but Ginny is also very good friends with Blip (Mo McRae).
Finding your role on a team, being a good teammate and navigating those waters are essential elements to any story involving sports. I just wish Pitch would have realized that the emotional stakes are already high enough, the drama has been built in from the beginning, and we didn’t need romantic feelings to be introduced to let us know what kind of impact Mike leaving the team would have on Ginny.
With all that being said, am I going to stop watching Pitch over this? No, at least not in the near term, but it’s definitely left me looking at the show through a new lens. This show, one that features a female athlete as its star, is far too important to me in the bigger picture to just quit on it. I really just hate that it chose to go down this path at all. Like so many great sport stars who have fallen from grace over the years due to scandal and seen their images tarnished, I’ll unfortunately never be able to fully look at Pitch the same way again. And that makes me sad.
What did you think of the latest development in Mike and Ginny’s relationship? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below!