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A version of this story first appeared in the April 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Fox and Major League Baseball are taking their game to the next level.
Fox, already home to the All-Star Game as well as the World Series and other postseason play, has reteamed with the league for Dan Fogelman pilot Pitch. The drama centers on Ginny (Kylie Bunbury), the first woman to break the gender barrier in the big leagues, with the licensing deal coming months after MLB announced plans to enter the scripted space with a Babe Ruth mini.
Under the new licensing pact — which has been months in the making — Ginny will pitch for the San Diego Padres, with the production filming at Petco Park, the team’s home stadium. Producers have also been granted the use of various MLB marks, logos, licensed product, uniforms, teams, stadiums, locations and game footage. The league will also provide expertise in ensuring the game’s accurate depiction in what is being billed as unparalleled access for a television series.
“We really embraced the show’s concept as it’s consistent with our continuing efforts of inclusion throughout our game,” MLB exec vp media Chris Tully told THR. “We’ve seen the baseball world celebrate the accomplishments of [Little League pitcher] Mo’ne Davis, Melissa Mayeux [the French player who is the first woman in MLB’s international registry], [collegiate baseball pitcher] Sarah Hudek and the USA Women’s National Baseball Team [Pan Am Games gold medalists], so we know there’s a very strong entertainment market for this kind of storyline.”
While both camps are currently focused on the pilot, should Pitch move to series the hope is that additional MLB clubs will be featured — particularly teams the Padres face in the National League like the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. Fogelman also hopes this summer’s All-Star Game — set for Petco Park — will open the door for cameos from some of the biggest names in baseball. (But don’t expect Padres like Matt Kemp to pop up as series regulars; Pitch will field its own lineup of sluggers including one played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar.)
“When Dan pitched us his idea for a show about the first female Major League Baseball player, we all agreed that authenticity was crucial to getting it right,” says Fox TV Group chairman and CEO Gary Newman. “Larry Jones and Eric Shanks of Fox Sports helped set a meeting with [MLB] commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB COO Tony Petitti — and they immediately saw the potential of the show. They loved Dan’s pitch and knew it could not only be a terrific series, but fantastic for the game of baseball.”
For now, though, Bunbury is working with a pitching coach — former big league pitcher Gregg Olson — and has an arsenal of what Fogelman calls “filthy stuff” including a screwball that tops 60 MPH. And even the umpires are legitimate — with one recently tweaking dialogue from the pilot script in favor of a more accurate delivery.
“I have done some sports stuff in the past where you have to create the fictional stuff, and it’s hard and distancing,” Fogelman says. “As a baseball fan, it’s such a sport that is based in those uniforms and the feel of it and the iconic imagery of it that I don’t think it would have felt right without it.”
The avid Mets fan ultimately hopes Pitch will wind up being good for both the network and the National pastime. “It could be great way to get new extra female eyes on the game itself,” he says.
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