By Andrew Wright
Special to the Rock River Current
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The series takes a new look at the famous Rockford Peaches baseball team, previously featured in the iconic 1992 movie that recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.
While the Shout Section Big Band played and Maureen Christine sang standards on Main Street, the crowds lined up for concessions at a food truck serving hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack, and kids tried their hand at the pitching booth.
Inside the stately Coronado, news outlets from throughout the Midwest gathered as the stars and creators of the new series walked the green carpet, a baseball-themed take on red-carpet entrances.
The show’s Rockford premier, which comes more than a month ahead of it hitting Amazon Prime, was sold out with every free ticket reserved in advance, according to the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Related: ‘I think Rockford will be proud’: New Amazon series shows different side of Rockford Peaches
Abbi Jacobson, who created, wrote and produced the series, plays Carson Shaw, an Idaho transplant who joins the Rockford Peaches in the inaugural season.
“I hope that people watch this and go after the thing they want to do, whether it’s baseball or graphic design – go and find other people that love what you do and life becomes more exciting, more connected,” Jacobson said while walking the green carpet. “I love that in the show it’s about that team on the field and off.”
Co-creator and show runner Will Graham explained how the movie influenced him in his youth and what effect it had on wanting to revisit the Peaches.
“I grew up a little gay kid playing Little League and I felt like I didn’t belong there, but there was something about the movie that made it feel that it’s okay for me to be on that field,” he said. “I realized that there’s a much bigger story that about this generation of women that touches on the queer narrative that the movie couldn’t do in 1992, and we could tell the story of women who couldn’t play in the league, but went on to play in the Negro League.
“I think the show has the spirit of the movie, the joy and the humor, but we’re looking to tell a different story. To me, this show is about finding joy in a time when the world is hard.”
The series introduces us to a new set of characters and follows the team as the league forms in 1943.
One of the breakout stars is Chantè Adams, who plays Max Chapman, a Rockford native and Black baseball player who is turned away from tryouts for the league.
“Max never gets to be a part of the Peaches because Black women were not allowed in the (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League) at that time, but the most important part of Max’s story is finding her own team,” Adams said. “Max is based off of three women who played in the Negro League – Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson and Connie Morgan. We were able to pull a little bit from each of their stories and create Max Chapman.”
D’Arcy Carden, who plays series lead Greta Gill, fell in love with the script when Jacobson approached her to join the project.
“I love how layered Greta is, she’s so complicated and it’s deeper than what meets the eye. She’s really good at faking it – and I mean that in every sense of the word,” Carden said. “She’s really confident and puts on this front, but there’s a lot going on below, which is really fun to play as an actor. I love her.”
Also in attendance Saturday was former Peoria Redwings pitcher Maybelle Blair, who served as a consultant to the show.
“Any girl who wants to play professional baseball should have the opportunity. Telling this story is so important because if it wasn’t for women athletes, we wouldn’t have Title IX, and women wouldn’t have a chance to play sports, go to college and become CEOs,” she said.
Part of the tale told in the new series is the presence of the queer community in the league. “At the premiere in New York, it was the first time I ever told anyone I was gay,” the 95-year-old said. “I thought I was the only gay person in the world till I went to Chicago to play ball.”
Executive Producer Desta Tedros Reff explained why she was drawn to the project, “I’m always interested in bringing marginalized perspectives to the mainstream, as a Black queer woman and a Midwesterner, showing people new perspectives into things they don’t often see. What excites me about these stories is their timeliness and their timelessness. This show is more than a TV show for us, it’s a mission statement.”
The 2,000 attendees cheered and laughed through the one-hour pilot, and most stayed around for the panel conversation led by Megan Cavanagh, who played Marla Hooch in the 1992 film.
The full 8-episode series will be available Aug. 12 on Amazon Prime Video.
This article is by Andrew Wright. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for story tips and suggestions.