WASHINGTON -- For all the awards Sean Doolittle can be nominated for, one in particular has him feeling “incredibly proud.”
Wednesday is the 19th annual Roberto Clemente Day, and Doolittle represents the Nationals as one of 30 club nominees for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award -- Major League Baseball’s most prestigious individual award recognizing the game’s philanthropic and humanitarian players.
“Just to be associated in a really small way with Roberto Clemente’s legacy is something I’m extremely humbled by, and I’m just incredibly grateful to be nominated and to be recognized,” Doolittle said. “That’s not something that is on your mind when you’re doing some of the work in the community, but it does feel really nice to be recognized for it.
“I think about Clemente and his legacy and how important his activism was. His charity work off the field, that was something he was incredibly passionate about. It’s rightfully a big part of who he was as a person and as a player. I’ll never, ever come close to his on-the-field legacy, but to be associated with him in a small way, it means a lot to me. I’m really appreciative.”
As the son of retired Air Force navigator and bronze star recipient Robert "Rory" Doolittle and seventh cousin of General James “Jimmy” Doolittle, an aviation pioneer who led The Doolittle Raid during World War II, veterans affairs are one of the causes with which Doolittle is involved. His outreach in the Washington area has included ongoing visits to Walter Reed Military Medical Center.
In working with marginalized populations, Doolittle has supported the LGBTQ community by donating $12,000 to Nationals Night OUT, and he was the recipient of the Team DC Community Service Award, which honors local sports leaders for their advocacy. He has held workshops at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy as part of MLB’s Shred Hate bullying-prevention program, and he participated in the UN Refugee Agency's gameday experience.
“We know what he does as a player, but as a human being, he’s one of the best I’ve ever met,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He cares about everybody and everything, and he’s very vocal. I’m proud of him and his wife [Eireann Dolan] for what they do for our community. He’s an unbelievable humanitarian.”
Suzuki not slowing down
Whether the balls are bouncing off his body from behind the plate or during his at-bats, catcher Kurt Suzuki has been getting banged up throughout the season. Still, the 14th-year backstop is taking his bumps and bruises in stride.
“Thank goodness it’s only 60 games,” Suzuki, 36, said. “It’s just part of the territory. I feel like as I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten worse. Or maybe it just hurts worse and I’ve gotten older.”
Suzuki isn't showing any signs of slowing down, though. Entering Tuesday’s contest behind the plate for Aníbal Sánchez, he had reached base safely in a career-high 17 consecutive games. He's slashing .317/.394/.450 during that stretch.
“He’s a hot mess right now,” Martinez said. “He goes in the training room and has ice everywhere. But he loves to play the game, he loves to be out there. It takes a lot for him to come out of the game. He won’t come out. He’s one of those guys -- I love him -- he just wants to play and help us win.”