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Actress went through grueling training to play MLB pitcher on new TV series

A new fictional series that debuts on FOX Thursday night imagines what it would take for a woman pitcher to land a job hurling for a Major League Baseball baseball team. In Pitch, 28-year-old Kylie Bunbury plays Ginny Baker, the first woman pitcher to reach ‘The Show,’ as baseball fans call the big leagues. Interestingly, she had no experience whatsoever playing baseball prior to landing the part. She ran track, played basketball and soccer as a kid, so she had some good athletic experience to fall back on. But no experience on the diamond. “I think I stuck my hand in a mitt a couple of times,” Bunbury said in an interview with USA Today Sports. “But, no, I never really had thrown a baseball. And if I had, it was the wrong way.”

So she learned how to pitch. Bunbury worked closely with former major league pitcher Gregg Olson, the 1988 American League Rookie of the Year. Olson put Bunbury through a grueling crash course that taught her the fine-tuned mechanics of baseball pitching and helped her fastball reach 60 mph on the radar gun. Her training with Olson was so authentic, in fact, that it left her with nagging arm injuries commonly suffered by real-life MLB pitchers. Authenticity is what the producers wanted — and that’s what they got. “It certainly works dramatically, and we couldn’t be more excited about her,” one of the show’s executive producers, Kevin Falls, said.

For Bunbury, the role of Ginny Baker is more than just an acting gig. She feels a responsibility to bring strong women characters to life, she said in an interview with Glamour earlier this month.

“Young girls need to see women who are strong and vulnerable and complex on screen,” Bunbury said. “Ginny is a complex female character, which I think is really important. You’re getting a human being,” she said, who is not a “superhero.”

The show certainly couldn’t be more timely, given all of the advances women have made in the sport in recent years, including Little League phenom Mo’Ne Davis, a teenage girl from France who made history by becoming the first female player to be eligible to be signed by a big league player, and just this past summer, two women made their debuts playing for a professional minor league team. But the original script was written back in the 1990s, creator Rick Singer said. American culture proved it wasn’t ready for such a show, or movie as he’d originally envisioned, then — but times have changed. “The whole idea for me was, I’m a huge baseball fan. Who would be the Jackie Robinson of today’s sports world? That’s where I came up with the idea for a woman,” Singer said. He admits it was a fantasy to think the show would’ve been made back then, but when Mo’Ne Davis captured the country’s attention, he resurrected the idea — and the FOX network went for it.

“We’re going to get haters,” Bunbury predicted, saying that if the show makes some uncomfortable, that’s a good thing. “Obviously. But when you have haters, you’re doing something right. And what people need to remember is, this is a television show. Let’s use our imaginations,” she said. “It’s not just about baseball.”

Read the full story at USA Today and Glamour.


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