Washington Nationals’ Pitcher Sean Dolittle
Oct 01, 2018 12:00AM
● By Brian Saucedo
By Tom Worgo • Photos Courtesy of The Washington Nationals Baseball Club
Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle and his wife Eireann Dolan have never shied from standing up for what they believe in. They’re comfortable advocating their views openly, bolstered by their deeds. They like to help people and get involved in charitable causes. But what brings them the most attention is their commentary on social media. They have addressed hot-button issues that other players won’t.
The couple, who met on Twitter, has taken stances on a variety of social and political causes. Doolittle, whose Twitter display name is @whatwouldDOOdo, has 85,000 followers. His wife has 35,000. For instance, Doolittle, whom the Nationals acquired last July from Oakland, spoke out when violence erupted in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia. In the past, Dolan, a writer and former CSN California broadcaster, tweeted to show support for Black Lives Matter and gun control.
Their virtual conversations carry weight in the real world as the couple have actively supported several charities in D.C. and Oakland. Since both come from military families, veterans are a huge focus. They have participated in California’s Operation Finally Home, which builds homes for wounded veterans. They also support Swords to Ploughshares, an organization devoted to helping veterans with housing and employment.
It’s no surprise considering how much the military has been part of the family’s history. Doolittle’s father is a retired Air Force veteran, and another family member, the late Jimmy Doolittle led the famous bombing raid on Tokyo in 1942.
The couple’s civic and social involvement seems to know few bounds. Doolittle and his wife organized a Thanksgiving dinner for Syrian refuges in Chicago, where they live in the offseason.
They once bought 900 tickets to a ballgame and sponsored LGBT pride night, which supports AIDS research and arts projects for youth in Oakland. They continue their support in Washington, volunteering with charities that help refugees, veterans, and underprivileged children.
When Doolittle isn’t keeping busy with off-the-field activities, he’s consumed with baseball. He finally put a lock on the closer’s role to end the Nationals’ revolving door of late-inning specialists. Since 2012, the Nationals have used five different closers. Doolittle, who Oakland drafted in the first round in 2007 as a position player, only worked one season as a closer before coming to Washington.
He’s been fantastic for the Nationals, pitching at an All-Star level both seasons. We recently sat down to talk to Doolittle about his charity work, how he met his wife on Twitter, and why he’s so outspoken.
You and Eireann have supported charities throughout your careers. What causes have you devoted time to in Washington?
The military stuff is something we continue to do. We visited Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center) earlier this year and the Air Force Association headquarters in Virginia. The veterans at Walter Reed were our age, which really made it a powerful experience. We had an awesome party for Pride Night (June 5th). My wife and I had been working with the LGBT center in D.C. called Smile that helps at-risk youth. We got like 200 tickets for the kids. World Refugee Day was important to us and we hosted a group of refugees (June 20).
Can you tell us a little bit about Operation Family Homes and Swords to Ploughshares and what led you to actively support these two organizations that support veterans?
Sword to Ploughshares provides everything from heath care assessment to job training to pro bono legal services so they can navigate the (Veterans Affairs) red tape and benefit claims. They also have housing initiatives. Operation Family Homes builds mortgage-free homes for vets and the organization custom fits it to unique individual needs. It’s neat to see how they get the community involved to devote time and supplies. It’s a very vulnerable time for vets when they transition out of the military.
Did you do a lot of research on Jimmy Doolittle?
I learned a lot more about him when I started playing for Oakland. He has a lot of ties to that area. The USS Hornet, the carrier he led 16 B25s for retaliating for Pearl Harbor, was docked in Alameda. There is a lot of stuff named after him. He went to (University of California) Berkley. It really piqued my interest and I tracked down a family genealogist and went back and retraced our family lineage. It got me to read a couple of books on him.
Is it true you met your wife on Twitter? How did it happen?
We have been following each other for a while and we interacted several times. We had a mutual friend in real life. We had gone back and forth on Twitter several times. Her work ended up bringing her to Scottsdale, where I was in spring training. We ended up getting together for frozen yogurt and five years later, we got married.
Why are you so active on Twitter?
I enjoy showing fans a different side they don’t normally get to see. I interact with them and have some fun. I am showing some personality. I wish more guys would show personality—even just a little bit. It’s been a mostly positive experience.
Are you and your wife very comfortable being so outspoken and revealing on Twitter?
Yeah. We have gotten a lot more comfortable about the issues we have spoken out about, and have gotten to know them very, very well. We have met with a lot of people and learned a lot of things. We are able to talk about it from educated perspective, which I think really helps.
When you are on the mound with a lead in the ninth inning, how do you stay calm?
The hardest part is staying calm because I think your body’s natural instinct is that you want to get out of this situation as soon as possible. Your natural instinct is to speed things up to get out of the mess as quickly as possible. That’s when things really blow up in your face. Over the course of my career, I have learned about managing the tempo of the inning. I have to slow things down to a point where I can remember what my game plan is and how I want to attack that guy. You are not going to get out of it every time, but it gives you a
much better chance of executing the pitches to give yourself a shot.
You have about two seasons of closer experience. Did it take time to develop a closer’s mentality or did it come naturally?
I think it came naturally to me. I took that mentality into any role I had because, for most of my career, I was pitching in high-leverage situations anyway. It was pretty similar mindset. You don’t have a ton of room for error. You are pitching in high-pressure situations. Even if it was the seventh or the eighth inning, or I was coming in to get a lefty out with guys on base, I always had that intensity and energy behind it.
What is your warmup routine before you come in to pitch?
I have had a few shoulder injuries in my career, so I have learned a lot about my body and arm. I want to make sure I am really loose by the time I pick a ball up and start throwing. Most nights, I leave my sweatshirt and jacket on. I want to be sweating by the time I get the ball from the bullpen coach. A lot of that stuff is scapular mobility stuff that really gets the inside of my shoulder warmed up. It’s movement patterns. I do a lot of full circles, full spirals we call them, and arm swings. I feel I am prepared when I come in.