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Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story (2018) - Does it hold up?

The documentary chronicles the struggles of the former Royals reliever.

Chien-Ming Wang wearing a Royals uniform Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

My TV time is generally reserved for escapism so I don’t watch a lot of documentaries. If I want to learn about a subject I’d almost always rather read about it than watch it. But I really don’t feel like talking about the current iteration of the Royals and I discovered Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story on Netflix and I thought, “Hey, I wonder if there’s anything interesting in here!”

Those of you who do watch documentaries need to fill me in on some of this stuff, though. It was about 90 minutes long, which seemed relatively short when I’m used to watching nearly three-hour Marvel movies but it felt like it took forever. I have to assume at least some of that was because for every four or five minutes of narration or interview there were at least a couple minutes of Chien-Ming Wang driving with some relaxing music playing. Is that normal? I assumed documentaries would spend more time talking and less time showing unrelated b-roll footage, as a general rule.

To film this documentary a camera crew followed Wang around for four years while he tried to find his way back to the big leagues. I was hoping for more about the process of accomplishing that goal from the documentary but they focused more on the personal aspects. Reading between the lines it seems like his parents, wife, and kids all kinda wished he’d have given up long before he finally achieved his goal in 2016 with the Royals. Wang, unfortunately, seemed unable to just walk away.

The film does spend a small chunk of time at the Texas Baseball Camp where Wang managed to rediscover the velocity that had once made him a terrific pitcher for the Yankees. It was interesting to see their thoughts on what his problems were and the solutions and exercises they offered. If you’re a Royals fan you’re going to see plenty of familiar faces, too. Former beat writers Rustin Dodd and Jeffrey Flanagan gave interviews about Wang. So did general manager Dayton Moore and former pitching coach Dave Eiland. I positively identified Eric Hosmer and Adalberto Mondesi in the background of a couple shots. Salvador Perez, as the Royals catcher, features in several more. One, in particular, should probably have come with a trigger warning for Royals fans; as Wang prepares to board the bus to the airport after Spring Training Salvy can be seen loading his luggage into the undercarriage in the background. I know his injury occurred unloading his luggage in 2019 but I still held my breath when I saw that.

I have a hard time judging the overall quality of this movie given my inexperience with the genre. I didn’t particularly enjoy it and felt like I could have learned all of the knowledge it contained in 10 minutes of reading instead of 90 minutes of watching but it received generally positive reviews and even won a pair of awards the year it came out, so maybe the problem is just with me. Even so, it was kind of pleasant to put a face and personality to “The Pride of Taiwan.” I can say, at least, that I don’t regret having given it a shot.