Review by Adam Donato
Nolan Ryan is one of the greatest pitchers in Major League Baseball history and is known for playing the most seasons ever. With such a long career, making a documentary about his life must be a daunting task. This Bradley Jackson documentary runs at an hour and forty two minutes. It covers everything from his relationship with his wife, which began when they were only children, to his life post retirement. Does this documentary have the arm to do this baseball icon justice?
One of the more down to earth aspects about Facing Nolan is its focus on his personal life. Fortunately, Nolan Ryan is still kicking today so he’s able to give some insight into how he felt during defining moments in his career. His wife, children, and grandchildren get plenty of time to shine and show who Nolan Ryan was outside of the game of baseball. This goes a long way to humanize a character that is known for being a tough-as-nails cowboy type. Speaking of cowboy type, the story makes sure to focus on Ryan’s aspirations outside of baseball as he is a Texan through and through. After watching this, audiences are sure to know who Nolan Ryan the man is as well as the baseball player.
It’s surprising to see the amount of all-stars collected for this documentary. Standouts include Pete Rose, the all time hits leader, and Randy Johnson, the second most strikeouts all time. Getting players like Rose to speak about Ryan is especially interesting because Ryan was a very brutal player. One of his tenets as a player was that he threw hard and sometimes threw wild. The documentary seems proud of his ability to scare hitters by throwing inside and in too many cases, hitting them. This aspect feels distasteful as hitting other players as a fear tactic is a cheap shot. That being said, hearing from players who hated playing him is a perfect way to showcase what it was actually like to face Nolan.
One of the more impressive aspects of the movie is that it makes fans of the teams he played on have closure. Anytime an all time great player leaves a franchise, he is usually maligned by said franchise’s fan base. Mets fans got a World Series championship out of him, but trading him away feels right as Ryan never quite fit in in New York. The California Angels got his physical prime and only lost him over poor ownership. Houston got his most postseason success outside of New York. Texas got his twilight years which were his most efficient and certainly his most iconic moments. Ryan’s whole career is pretty well covered and will leave the viewer shocked to know that he never won a Cy Young award.
Baseball fans are sure to enjoy Facing Nolan as it certainly does justice to the longest career in Major League Baseball history. This documentary perfectly encapsulates his entire career, all his achievements, and still has time to show off who he was as a person. Be sure to check this one out!
Facing Nolan screens in theaters for one night only on May 24.