As the calendar turned to July, Sean Doolittle knew it was coming. He was going to be traded by the A's before the end of the month, though his destination was a mystery.On July 16, the inevitable happened. The left-hander was sent from Oakland to Washington along with fellow reliever
As the calendar turned to July, Sean Doolittle knew it was coming. He was going to be traded by the A's before the end of the month, though his destination was a mystery.
On July 16, the inevitable happened. The left-hander was sent from Oakland to Washington along with fellow reliever Ryan Madson.
The move from worst to first was exciting enough, thrusting the 31-year-old into a pennant race for the first time in three years. And the southpaw has done everything the Nationals could have hoped for, converting his first 21 save chances while helping the team clinch the National League East. The Nats will host Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday against the Cubs.
:: NLDS schedule and coverage ::
• NLDS Game 1: Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET on TBS
But Doolittle's new baseball home offered more than a chance to challenge for a World Series title -- it was also the ideal setting for a player long committed to a number of various causes in an attempt to make the world a better place.
"I want to be as well-rounded as I can; I don't want to be just a baseball player," Doolittle said. "It's obviously my passion and my dream job and I'm going to make the absolute most of it, but having a platform to do some stuff comes with that. D.C. is a great place to take advantage of that."
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During his five-plus years in Oakland, Doolittle and his wife, Eireann Dolan (they eloped on Monday's off day), worked with a number of organizations to support multiple causes. In June 2015, they raised money and gave away hundreds of tickets for an LGBT Pride Night at the Coliseum, then hosted 17 refugee families for Thanksgiving dinner at their home in Chicago later that year.
"Eireann's mom came out to her when she was in high school, and her grandparents were political refugees from Ireland in the early 1900s, so there was enough of a connection that drew us in," Doolittle said. "Every once in a while, there's a something that's close to us or our families or something that we believe strongly in, so we try to turn it into a positive by drawing attention to it. We also try to get people involved in it, because that carries a little more weight."
Given that both come from military families, it was only natural for Doolittle and Dolan to get involved with some veterans' organizations. In 2014, they worked with a Bay Area organization that gives houses to veterans in need. This showed Doolittle that not only did he enjoy helping others, but also that his position as a professional athlete provided him an opportunity to do so in a meaningful way.
"We set up a gift registry on social media and if you spent $50, we'd send a signed ball or a signed team bat," Doolittle said. "By the end of it, we had furnished two houses floor-to-ceiling, every cabinet, every linen closet stocked with stuff from people that had responded and wanted to participate. That's when we realized the type of platform we had."
What makes their dedication to help others so admirable is that unlike many celebrities, it isn't about merely writing a check.
They want to get their hands dirty.
"We're donating financially to these causes and definitely have skin in the game in these issues, but if I can donate my time as well, it shows people that this isn't just a hollow, opportunistic thing that I'm doing," Doolittle said. "These are things I feel strongly about."
Doolittle and Dolan penned a lengthy op-ed for Sports Illustrated earlier this season to express how disturbed they were by the issues facing veterans. During their research, they were introduced to Kristofer Goldsmith, the executive director of High Ground Veterans Advocacy, an organization dedicated to empowering veterans in an effort to help future veterans address problems before they get even further out of hand.
"They're sincere," Goldsmith said of the couple. "There are a lot of famous or wealthy people who donate to charities or do a commercial on TV because it makes them look good. I could tell very quickly after talking to Sean and Eireann that they genuinely care. They recognize that they've been given certain advantages in life and they can expend some capital in elevating others and taking on good causes that the average American -- MLB fan or not -- is completely unaware of.
"Rather than just saying, 'There's a problem here,' he's elevating those who have solutions, and he's providing direct assistance to the people who are on the front end of the fight."
What better place to get involved than Washington?
Doolittle was approached by several groups when he arrived in July, but he opted to put non-baseball issues on the back burner while he adapted to his new team and surroundings.
"I didn't want to dive right in so soon after getting traded," Doolittle said. "I wanted the guys on the team, the fans and the organization to know that this is my priority. After the season, we're going to roll up our sleeves. Hopefully we can start doing some networking, get involved on more of a policy level on that stuff."
With the lines between politics and sports as blurred as ever, Doolittle takes offense to those that tell athletes to "Stick to sports." Baseball might be his profession, but that doesn't mean it defines who he is as a human -- and more importantly, as an American.
"The way our society is right now, everything is so intertwined," Doolittle said. "You can't compartmentalize anything. To see guys that are willing to not only do that in support of their communities, but to take a stand on something, that's pretty powerful stuff because of the climate that we're in right now. I have a ton of respect for that."
With one year remaining on his five-year, $10.5 million contract and two team-friendly options after that, Doolittle is likely to be in Washington through the 2020 season. That's plenty of time for him to make a difference away from the field, though his biggest impact could very well come after he's finished playing.
"I don't know what that looks like yet," Doolittle said when asked about his post-baseball career. "I think it involves politics, but the way politics are now, I don't know. It can get messy. I don't see any way that Eireann or I will stop the veterans' advocacy or some of the other stuff that we're doing. If an opportunity after baseball presents itself to continue doing that kind of thing, absolutely, that would be something we would be very interested in."
Mark Feinsand, executive reporter for MLB.com, has covered the Yankees and MLB since 2001 for the New York Daily News and MLB.com.