When Sean Doolittle was traded to the Nationals on July 16, 2017, it was for sure a major change in his career. He was going from the last-place Athletics to the first-place Nats.
What he probably didn’t know at the time was that it was a major life change for him and his soon-to-be wife, Eireann Dolan.
Doolittle brought a lot of value to the Nationals in that trade with the Athletics in that he was under team control for three more seasons after the 2017 campaign ended. After recording a 2.40 ERA and 21 saves to help the Nats win the National League East in 2017, he pitched to a 3.20 ERA and 1.047 WHIP while striking out 132 and walking just 25 with 54 saves over the next three seasons.
Of course, he helped the Nationals win the 2019 World Series, and he was given the Good Guy Award as voted on by members of the local media in each of his first three full seasons with the club.
This offseason, he added some new hardware to his mantle. Doolittle and Dolan were both included in a group of 11 locals who were named Washingtonians of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine in December. It’s an annual honor the publication awards to people “who make our region an even better place.”
Doolittle and Dolan were recognized for their contributions to the D.C. area in using their platform to support reading programs, statehood and voting rights, LGBTQ+ inclusion, and more. Doolittle is the second Nationals player to receive this honor after Ryan Zimmerman was named to the 2016 class.
“It’s really important for my wife and I to be involved in the community,” Doolittle said of the honor last week during “The Hot Stove Show” on MASN. “You know, we live here. This is our home. We love being a part of D.C., to give back to the community. The Nats do an awesome job, I think, and they’ve helped my wife and I really kind of find our footing in the city as we try to get involved and do some things. They do an awesome job with their Youth Baseball Academy and Nats Philanthropies. They do really good work. We’re lucky that they have such an awesome network in place for us.”
Things haven’t always been easy on the field for Doolittle over the last couple of years. He struggled during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, posting a career-high 5.87 ERA, and was plagued by injuries throughout.
He signed with the Reds as a free agent before the 2021 season and was designated for assignment in August. He was claimed off waivers by the Mariners two days later and pitched in only 11 games before the end of the season.
After the lockout was lifted last offseason, Doolittle returned to the Nats on a one-year deal. He started the season strong, but was placed on the injured list after just six appearances and was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Instead of choosing Tommy John surgery, he had an internal brace procedure, cutting his rehab time in half so he could be ready to pitch by the start of this season.
Right after the end of the World Series, the Nationals announced they had re-signed Doolittle to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. This allowed the lefty to continue his rehab throughout this offseason with team doctors while preparing to pitch come spring.
“It was best-case scenario when they reached out,” Doolittle said. “Because one thing I love so much about the Nats, their performance team, their strength coaches, the trainers. They’re so good, and I was really excited for the opportunity to continue to work with them throughout this process. … By re-upping so early in the offseason, I think it freed me up mentally to throw myself into the rehab process with a clear head.”
Throughout all of that, Doolittle’s commitment to the D.C. community never wavered, leading to the Washingtonian of the Year recognition.
“We love it here,” he said. “To get an honor like that was unexpected, for sure. We’ve been part-time residents of the city for a few years now. So we’re still learning, right? So many of the other honorees have been doing incredible work in D.C. for a long time. They are people we look up to. That we look to when conversations are happening around the city. We kind of take our lead from them. So to be in that group was really, really special.”
Here we are almost six years after that midseason trade meant Doolittle and Dolan had to move their lives across the country, not knowing what their futures with the Nationals would bring. Now not only have they made an impact on the team, they are full-time D.C. residents entrenched in the city who have made long-lasting impacts in the community. And they’re looking forward to doing more.
“When we made this move, we did it for the long-term,” Doolittle said. “This feels like home and has felt like home for a while, so to actually be able to put down roots here, it feels really good, it feels right. I don’t know when my career is going to be over. I don’t know what I’m going to do when it’s over. But we’ll be here. It’s not like whatever direction it takes us, we’re gonna move. I think my wife has her goals, things she wants to do, all of which she wants to do here in the city. So I think we’re here to stay. You’re stuck with us.”
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