WASHINGTON -- When Sean Doolittle was traded to the Nationals last summer, it was a perfect match for a few reasons. On the field, Doolittle became the closer that helped stabilize a leaky Nats bullpen, which had posted the worst ERA in the Majors during the first half. But the
WASHINGTON -- When Sean Doolittle was traded to the Nationals last summer, it was a perfect match for a few reasons. On the field, Doolittle became the closer that helped stabilize a leaky Nats bullpen, which had posted the worst ERA in the Majors during the first half. But the pairing was also perfect off the field for Doolittle and his wife, Eireann Dolan.
One of baseball's most socially active players would now be playing his home games in Washington.
"If you want to get involved and do some stuff off the field, this is a great organization to do that," Doolittle said. "They encourage that. It's a great city for that. It's a very open and accepting city. It's welcomed us with open arms, and we'd like to kind of repay that a little bit."
Doolittle and Dolan stand out in comparison to many of their peers for their willingness to get involved in social issues, including on their Twitter accounts, @whatwouldDOOdo and @EireannDolan.
Last year, the couple co-wrote an op-ed in Sports Illustrated that focused on mental health resources for veterans. They have hosted Syrian refugees in Chicago for a Thanksgiving meal. They were one of the staunchest supporters of LGBT Pride Night every year when Doolittle was with the A's, and in response to backlash for the first scheduled event at Oakland Coliseum, they raised enough money to purchase about 900 tickets. They are supporters of Operation Finally Home to help build houses in the D.C. community.
It did not take long after the trade for them to grow to love D.C. They wanted to get involved in their new city, too, but they wanted to do their homework first.
"Let's see what issues present themselves in D.C. and be familiar with the area," Dolan said. "We don't want to project what we think is the problem, we wanted to see what needed the most help in the area."
And although they acknowledge their plans are in the early stages, they have started to find a few causes that they are interested in supporting.
Looking for ways to address literacy, they have considered starting a book club for high school students, focusing on schools in D.C. with the lowest graduation rates. They have looked into programs that help students who have accumulated lunch debt. They want to get involved with Night Out at Nationals Park this season and have considered partnering with a local homeless LGBT youth center or a group for transgender rights.
And they have noticed the rapid gentrification in D.C., where the African-American population declined to below 50 percent in 2011 after it spent about 50 years as the majority. Dolan and Doolittle quickly discovered that the area surrounding Nationals Park and the Navy Yard has been one of those most affected -- housing prices have skyrocketed and pushed out local residents.
"It became clear to us very quickly that that area was undergoing a very rapid change," Dolan said. "Based on who you ask, you could ask 10 different people and get 10 different answers. It was either good, bad, lateral, but it was changing quickly.
"It was really unsettling to know that we were participating in that. We were moving in. We were taking part. We lived in that cool, developed part of Oakland. We lived in the cool, new section of San Francisco that was just up and coming. And in D.C., it's the same situation."
Issues like gentrification are not simple, and the couple is aware of that challenge. But their willingness to tackle them is one reason why they stand out.
Nationals fans quickly embraced the two, who eloped before the start of the postseason this past October. They often interact with fans on Twitter, which usually involves Dolan making fun of Doolittle or his Star Wars fandom. During the ninth inning at Nationals Park, when Doolittle takes the mound in a save situation, fans affectionately chant "Doo!"
The club has connected with them as well; Dolan and Doolittle are in contact with the Nats' community relations department to work together for their causes.
"We're so grateful that he is there and people, right or wrong, they listen to him," Dolan said. "He commands their attention. We know that our window could theoretically be short. I know on one hand, lefty relievers, if you have a pulse, you have a job, but a guy like Sean who throws the way he throws -- we don't take anything for granted.
"Our window is so short. So you can kind of use your platform in the big leagues to get into the best steakhouse in town, to get into a VIP club or whatever, and there's nothing wrong with that. … In our mind, it's just more rewarding to get the community involved, because it's such a great asset."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.