Baseball has always been filled with scandal, rivalries, and underdog stories, so it’s no surprise that the sport has attracted Hollywood over the years. On Thursday, Fox debuts Pitch, it’s new baseball-inspired drama, which follows pitcher Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) as she becomes the first woman to play in the major league. The pilot was shot on location at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, but once filming moved to Los Angeles for the rest of the series, production designer Dave Blass was brought on board to re-create and expand the world.
Working alongside set decorator Andi Brittan and the rest of the production team, Blass created highly flexible sets that can be transformed easily. A hallway beneath the stadiumdoes triple duty as a batting cage and press area, while the owner’s office can become another office and the owner’s box. The biggest set is the clubhouse, which takes up the largest stage at Paramount Pictures. (Blass notes that it once held the entire Star Trekset.) “Everything is interconnected, so you can walk from the trainer’s room into the coach’s office, down the hall to Ginny’s locker room, and then go through the main clubhouse and walk into the batting cages, all in one big shot,” he says.
Blass explains that while they looked at many different stadiums for inspiration, they focused on the home of the Padres, the team Ginny joins. The show worked closely with Major League Baseball and uses actual teams and branding. “This isn’t the San Diego Sharks playing the L.A. Quakes,” says Blass. “It’s real MLB.”
While much of the action takes place in the stadium, the show also needed a space to focus on Ginny’s life off the field. Blass based Ginny’s hotel room on the suite in the Omni Hotel that was used in the pilot. While the space might feel impersonal, it actually reveals a lot about the character. “The idea is that she’s just been brought up to the major leagues, and she’s not quite sure if she’s going to stay around,” he says. “If you buy a house in San Diego and all of a sudden you’re sent back to the minors in Texas, what do you do? We like the idea that she stayed in the hotel and was kind of waiting to see what was going to happen.”
Throughout the season, the production will also shoot at other stadiums. To make the process easier, Blass and Brittan created an away locker room set that can be customized for each location. “We’re going to play the Dodgers; we’re going to play San Franciscoand several other teams,” Blass says. “There’s no real big advantage of going into a locker room and shooting a scene there when you want to be out on the field at Dodger Stadium.”
For Blass and Brittan, the major challenge was creating a compelling design that was also realistic. “Like most people, I hate when I watch a show and you see the little details wrong,” Blass says. “Andi and I have tried really hard to get not only the design of the show right, but make sure we get the baseball right.”