Though never a truly dominant major league pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang did win 19 games in consecutive seasons for the New York Yankees and was runner-up for the American League Cy Young Award in 2006. The documentary “Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story” follows the Taiwanese-born ballplayer nearly a decade later as he attempts to bounce back from injuries and once again reach “The Show.”
By that point, Wang had not pitched in the majors for more than two years, bouncing from organization to organization, competing for roster spots with players 10 or more years his junior. A team of trainers, coaches and doctors work to get the 6-4, 215-pound right-hander back on the mound as he deals with extended separation from his family and the weight of being proclaimed the “Pride of Taiwan.”
Undeniably moving, the film would have benefited from a shorter format. Director Frank W. Chen relies on perhaps too many shots of Wang training and throwing, driving, checking into motels and preparing meals to convey the difficulty of his journey. The numerous testimonials to his fortitude and gentle nature also eventually become redundant.
The setbacks outweigh the triumphs as Wang works to regain the velocity on his fastball and movement (or “late life”) on his slider, and Chen mirrors his subject’s demeanor in never going too high or too low on the emotional scale. Ultimately, it’s an inspiring account of an elite athlete with the tenacity (and resources) to battle adversity and keep his dream alive.
‘Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story’
In English and Mandarin with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Playing: Edwards West Covina Stadium 18; Edwards Westpark 8, Irvine; Regal La Habra Stadium 16