Fox’s “Pitch” Scratches An Itch

Pitch is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Fox’s new baseball drama about Ginny Baker — the first female baseball player to play in the MLB — is just what I needed. Lately there has been a major league sized hole in the market of compelling scripted sports stories.

Sure, there’s been plenty of sports-related reality TV, but everything out there is based on a true story. I’ve had as much fun as anybody watching “Hard Knocks,” “Last Chance U,” “All or Nothing,” “A Season With Notre Dame” and “Friday Night Tykes,” but there’s just something about a scripted drama that draws me in more than a reality show.

It’s been five whole years since “Friday Night Lights” was cancelled, and in that time no show has stepped up to the plate to scratch my serialized sports drama itch. I miss my friends in Dillon, Texas. I miss going along for the ride as Matt Saracen scrambles out and makes the game-winning pass, or Tim Riggins runs over a linebacker. I miss watching Vince Howard run away from tacklers, and Luke Cafferty crushing running backs. And I miss Coach Taylor’s halftime speeches. I even miss all of the off-the-field drama with Saracen and Julie, and Tim and Lyla.

The silver screen hasn’t even given me the dramatized sports I crave. It seems in recent years, that if a sports movie isn’t based on a true story, Hollywood wants nothing to do with it.. “42” — based on a true story. “Moneyball” — based on a true story. “Race” … “Million Dollar Arm,” “When the Game Stands Tall,” “Rush,” … the list goes on and on. All good sports movies. All based in reality.

The one other major sports drama, besides “Pitch,” that got it right was “Creed.” The boxing film starring FNL’s Michael B Jordan hit all the right notes a sports drama needs to hit. It brought all of the best things from the “Rocky” franchise, but with a modern flair. I saw that movie in the theater three times — including twice its opening weekend — and went out to the local 24-hour department store to buy it on Blu Ray at midnight the night it came out. I was excited for that movie when it was announced, and it delivered beyond my wildest dreams when it was released.

Following Adonis Johnson from California to Philadelphia as he chases his dream of following in his father, Apollo Creed’s, footsteps is compelling from start to finish. But start to finish is only a little over two hours. A good TV series lasts years. And I hope to follow Baker’s career from her first troubled outing, to achieving all of her baseball dreams for many, many seasons.

Books last a bit longer, but there aren’t that many of those to choose from either — at least not for adults. My bookshelves are filled with non-fiction sports literature. I have read biographies of all the sports greats — Vince Lombardi, Ted Williams, Roger Maris, Roberto Clemente, Kirby Puckett, Reggie White, Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle, Muhammad Ali … the list goes on. And I have read plenty of children’s and young adult fiction sports books — all books by Matt Christopher, “Slam!” by Walter Dean Myers, “Maniac Magee,” by Jerry Spinelli etc.

But as an adult, I’ve had a hard time finding compelling sports fiction. I have worn out my copies of “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach and “The Natural” by Bernard Malamud and “The Rookie” by Scott Siggler, but besides those treasures, I’m at a loss — but would love suggestions!

It seems on TV, in the movies and in books, the sports fiction is for kids, while adults are served more reality based fare. Kids get “The Mighty Ducks” and adults get “Moneyball.”

“Pitch” has the opportunity to be the torchbearer of sports drama on TV, and so far it has been as compelling and interesting and entertaining as I could have hoped for.