Off The Bat, Episode Four: Hunter Pence's Omelet and Kick-Ass Robots

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Last time, I pondered that MTV2 hasn’t really thought about the main subjects of their show. This week I reveal the components of Off the Bat’s devastating content formula. Plug it in and watch the Nielsens soar.

Watch out, world: a scant four episodes into their existence, the creative team behind Off the Bat has unlocked a content-churning formula that makes thriller-manufacturing machine James Patterson look like a comparative slouch. Although access to the entirety of the formula requires a security clearance that I can’t hope to achieve in this lifetime, here are the ingredients that I can discern from the outside:

1. Melanie Iglesias gleefully flings herself into an unflattering, airheaded feminine stereotype.

In this week’s coverage of zany baseball happenings, the hosting crew watches footage of a fan maintaining an uninterrupted phone conversation while catching a foul ball. Crazy stuff!

Melanie’s fresh take: “That could never be me. First I’d be like, ‘Let me take a selfie.’” She then proceeds to hoist (empty) hand above her head and poses for an (imaginary) selfie. Cue adolescent male drooling(?).  

2. A Major League Baseball player is forced to do something stupid, despite their protestations that they’d rather not.

This week’s in-studio guest was the majority of the St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching staff: the triple-armed strikeout machine of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and Shelby Miller. One thing led to another and suddenly Wainwright is being cajoled by Sway and the anemic and easily led remnants of a studio audience to perform a janky ad hoc Riverdance. Compelled by shame, embarrassment, and sympathy for Mr. Wainwright, I opened up another tab so I didn’t actually have to watch said Riverdance. I will assume that it went poorly.

3. A Major League Baseball player declares their love for The Bachelor.

Two weeks ago we learned the revelatory nature of Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie’s attachment to this expired pinkish slab of empty-calorie reality-TV waste meat. This week we learn that Miller and Wainwright are also loyal members of the show’s audience. (Wainwright attempts to nullify his viewership by explaining that watching the show is more his wife’s thing and he just tags along. Miller, nobly, makes no such attempt to slough off responsibility.)

At first glance this seems like such a bizarre nugget of pop culture to have become a must-watch DVR appointment for baseball players during their homestands. But as I let the thought of baseball’s widespread Bachelor aficionadoship sink in, the reason that baseball players watch the show became obvious: each season’s story of a seemingly predestined contestant’s rise from the anonymous series-premiere ranks and into holy matrimony is a perfect mirror for each major leaguer’s journey from the dreggy anonymity of the overcrowded minors and into the spotlight of the exclusive Big Leagues. I mean, duh, right?! (“Off the Bat,” predictably, does not pursue this trenchant symbolism. The iteration is the punchline, and then it’s on to the forced-march dance routines.)

4. Carefully cropped shots of the same less-than-a-dozen studio audience members.

Self-explanatory.

5. A Major League Baseball player is quietly hilarious underneath Chris Distefano’s constant yapping.

This week Chris is flown out to San Francisco, to spend a morning working out with Giants outfielder Hunter Pence. Despite Distefano’s persistent attempts to talk all over the remarkably chilled-out Pence, in the closing moments of the segment Hunter slyly nails a man who is theoretically paid for his quick wit:

Pence: Man, you’ve been a major success.

Distefano: You think so?

Pence: You’ve really helped me feel good about myself.

6. Off the Bat blatantly refuses to understand the actual lives of baseball players.

Distefano -- who is by this point clearly meant to be the star of the show, and receives significantly more solo facetime than any of the other three hosts -- introduced the Pence segment like so: “Alright, look: we all know baseball players’ lives are crazy: exciting, fast cars, wild parties, kick-ass robots.”

(A note for new viewers: saying “kick-ass robots” is an example of Distefano’s signature equation of random silliness with comedy. This is him. This is him at his best.)

This intro confused me because the hosting crew had just come off the Miller/Wainwright Bachelor conversation. As the audience we have literally just seen that the lives of baseball players look a lot like nights in with the wife and DVR watching mass-produced network television. That is, exactly the exact opposite of fast cars, wild parties, and kick-ass robots. What’s more, Distefano had already taped his segment with Pence. He knew, then, that the audience was mere seconds away from seeing Hunter:

  • Proudly show off his upstairs reading nook, where he puts in a daily morning sesh.
  • Fire up his motorized scooter and scoot on off to a local diner for breakfast.
  • Sit down in “his seat” at said diner. As in: much like a 70-year-old retiree, Pence is at this diner so frequently that:
  • He prefers the “Create Your Own Omelette” menu option -- there is a specific table that is de facto reserved for him.

So, yes: wild parties and kick-ass robots.   

***

New to the show this week, and hopefully not an ingredient in the formulas of future shows: mangling an international player’s name. Apologies to Hyun-jin Ryu. Apologies all around.

Did you miss Off the Bat on TV? Boy oh boy are you missing out. You can watch the full episode here.

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