Doolittle makes emotional return to DC

Nationals honor former reliever, World Series champion with pregame ceremony

May 26th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- expected to feel “a wave of emotions” when he returned to Nationals Park on Tuesday. He had never faced a former team before, and this was no ordinary group. Doolittle won a World Series with Washington in 2019, and there was a special bond between him, the club and the fan base.

“I loved my time with the Nats,” Doolittle said on Sunday. “I loved everything about it. I loved the way that the fans embraced me. I loved the way that the guys, especially in the training room, took care of me. I loved the guys on the team and the support that we had for each other.”

In a personalized pregame tribute, the Nationals recognized the left-handed reliever, who played in Washington from 2017-20. During that time, Doolittle appeared in 147 games, and he posted a 10-10 record with 75 saves and a 3.03 ERA over 142 2/3 innings.

A video played on the Jumbotron commemorated Doolittle’s career highlights, his far-reaching community initiatives and his deep passion for Star Wars.

Doolittle then walked from the Reds’ dugout to home plate, where he was presented with a signed No. 63 Nationals jersey from manager Dave Martinez, a framed lightsaber World Series celebration photo from Daniel Hudson and a framed World Series championship parade photo from Ryan Zimmerman.

“He was a very important part of this ballclub, but also of this city,” Martinez said before the game. “He did so many wonderful things for this city. We miss him. I’m glad he’s doing well. I can’t wait to see him.”

Doolittle’s tenure with the Nationals came to an abrupt end last year when he sustained a season-ending right oblique strain. When he walked off the mound on Sept. 10, 2020, he did not realize that being placed on the injured list would mean he could not be around his teammates because of health and safety protocols.

Doolittle, 34, entered free agency in the offseason and signed in February with Cincinnati, where he is 3-0 with a 4.15 ERA and one save across 17 1/3 frames.

Tuesday marked his official goodbye and hello to the Nationals. Prior to the series opener, Doolittle greeted his former teammates, manager and staff on the field during batting practice. The reception from the Nats was just a preview of the boisterous ovation he would receive hours later from the fans.

“When you’re a part of a team that won the World Series,” Doolittle said, “I think it becomes a lot different.”