Interview with Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Most of the people I interview on DC Heavy Metal are in metal bands but when I found out that one of the Washington Nationals is a fellow metal head I just had to reach out and try to get an interview. Sean Doolittle found time in his busy schedule to record this interview with me on March 20th, 2018. We mention a metal playlist he put together for the Nats players and you can see that in iTunes here. Sean and his wife, Eireann Dolan, also work with several charities that involve military veterans and while he talks about one of them in the interview, a lack of comprehension on my part led me to not mention another that he works with, High Ground Veterans Advocacy. This organization helps train veterans to professionally advocate for issues that benefit veterans. If this is your first time at DCHM be sure to visit our calendar of all the upcoming heavy metal concerts in our area here and if you’d like to check out more of my interviews you can do that by going here. You can listen to the entire 35 minute interview with Sean Doolittle by clicking the orange play button below or you can download it as a 49mb mp3 here. The entire interview is also transcribed below, as usual my words are in bold. Bonus metal points if you read along while you listen!

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’ve got a special guest on the phone with me, Sean Doolittle of the Nationals. In addition to being a metal head, Sean is also a closing pitcher on the Nats. He attended college at the University of Virginia, was drafted by the Oakland A’s who traded him to the Washington Nationals in July of 2017 just a couple weeks before the trade deadline last season. This will be Sean’s first full season with the Nationals and the team’s home opening game will be on Thursday, April 5th against the New York Mets. Now Sean, I first found out that you were a metal head a couple of weeks ago when my friend Lars Gotrich over at NPR @’d me in a retweet of a playlist you posted on Twitter that was full of metal songs that you played for the rest of the team during practice. You had a wide range of bands on there from old classics like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden to newer bands like Khemmis and Power Trip. I could tell right away that you are really into metal. So to get started here can you tell me how you first got into listening to heavy metal?

Oh man I guess I was introduced to it by my dad. I remember when we were kids I was playing Little League or travel baseball as early as 8 or 9 years old. When we would be going to the games in the minivan we would be blasting Black Sabbath or Ozzy Osbourne or AC/DC or Metallica and that was my introduction to it. That was a lot of the music that my dad was into and [on] those long car trips playing travel baseball that was pretty much all we listened to and then as I got older I really started to branch out from there and explore a lot of really different kinds of metal.

Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

I saw that you had some heavier stuff on that playlist like Death and At the Gates. Do you get into a lot of death metal bands?

Yeah I do. So like, a little about that playlist. We have these big portable speakers at practice that we take out onto the field with us and the strength coach will essentially tell a guy the day before, “hey put together a playlist for practice tomorrow” and it’ll be playing over the speakers as we’re going through our day on the field. And I had politely declined like three times because I was like I don’t think anybody is really going to want to hear this. I don’t know if guys will be able to really get that much done in practice with their faces melting off or if they’re headbanging and they miss something the coach just said or something like that.

Haha.

So I tried to make it like a crash course. Like an introduction to metal starting with Black Sabbath and Judas Priest in the late 70’s and early 80’s, kinda going through thrash and New Wave of British Heavy Metal and then being in Florida right now for spring training I had to make sure that I put Death on there. I kind of go through phases of different kinds of music that I listen to but Death and Obituary are two of my favorite death metal bands and I always come back to [them] so I had to make sure that Death had a spot on that playlist for sure.

Now I noticed you didn’t have any black metal or grindcore on there. Are those genres you don’t really like that much or you just figure that might be too much for the other players to handle?

A little bit of both I guess. I don’t really dabble in grindcore too much. Agoraphobic Nosebleed, which is just one of my favorite combinations of words to say, their earlier stuff was really grindcore but the most recent release that they had…

I think it was called Arc, yeah.

Yeah. That was extremely my taste. That was really cool. I’m not exactly sure what subgenre that would fall into but black metal… that playlist was an intro to it but Tribulation. I love their new album [titled Down Below]. That would have been a worthy addition to the playlist but no I would say I tend to spend more time with thrash, death metal and doom metal probably.

So what is your favorite subgenre of heavy metal then?

Heh heh. It rotates man. I’ll be honest I was spoiled. I played six years in Oakland and the bands that came out of the Bay Area that were all from right around there. That Bay Area thrash sound, obviously Metallica, Testament and Death Angel and Exodus, I was spoiled over there and I got really into some of that stuff but it rotates. I come down to Florida and for the first like half of spring training I was listening to a lot of Death and Obituary and Monstrosity and Malevolent Creation, you know that Tampa scene in the early 90’s. It also kind of depends on what I’m doing at that time. If I have to do a workout or if I’m trying to get cardio in I might listen to different things. I guess my tastes are really all over the place.

So I also noticed you had a couple of bands [on the playlist] with ties to our area like Periphery and Animals As Leaders. So are there any other bands from around here that you’re into?

Yeah I love Periphery. I’ve actually been listening to one of their side projects, Haunted Shores.

It’s like instrumental right?

Yeah it’s all instrumental. I really like it, I’ve been listening to that a lot during spring training. The other DC band, the Agoraphobic Nosebleed EP that we talked about, Arc, I listen to that a lot. I listen to, I don’t know how to say it because I’ve never heard it pronounced, is it Ilsa?

Yeah, Ilsa.

Yeah. That new, heh, Corpse Fortress, which I think is a amazingly good metal name for an album.

So there’s a story behind the name of that album actually. There used to be, in Silver Spring, a little DIY house show venue and bands coming through on tour would play the basement of this place all the time and it was called the Corpse Fortress. And I think one or two of the guys from Ilsa actually lived there back then and at some point the landlord found out and kicked everybody out kind of thing. But there’s probably a good four or five years there where I saw some awesome bands play there that later were getting signed to these labels and stuff and Ilsa is one of them. So it’s kind of a nod to the local metal heads here I think. That they named it Corpse Fortress. That wasn’t a coincidence I’m sure.

That’s awesome actually. That’s a really cool story. That makes me like it even more. I’ve been playing it nonstop for the last week but that’s really cool.

So Bryce Harper has been seen hanging out with the local rapper Wale before. Is there anyone from the DC area music scene that you’d go hang out with, maybe catch a show at the 9:30 Club or something?

Shoot man, any of those guys from those bands that I just talked about. I have talked a very little bit with Mark Holcomb of Periphery and would love to cross paths with them at some point. The guys from Animals As Leaders are one of my favorite groups. I’m not a morning person but in the morning I’ll get to the field, I’ll throw on some Animals As Leaders and just go really get lost in my morning routine, my stretches and some of the exercises that I have to do every day. It’s a really good way to start my day. But no man, any of those guys from those DC bands it would be really cool to hang out with or have them out at the field or something. That would be really neat.

Well I do know a few of those guys so maybe I’ll pass it along. Hopefully they’ll read or listen to this interview anyway, haha. So before you were on the Nats you were with the Oakland A’s for several years and every metal head knows of the Bay Area’s famous thrash scene like we were already talking about bands like Metallica, Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Forbidden, all these bands came from there. So while you were out there did you ever get to meet any of the members from any of those classic thrash bands?

Yeah I did actually. I got to meet the guys from Metallica a couple times because I’ve used Metallica‘s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” as my intro song since 2012, since my rookie year. You know at the time I just felt like there was a cool connection between Metallica and the Bay Area, especially an older Metallica song like that and we also had another pitcher in our bullpen, he came out to [another Metallica song] “One” so we had a couple guys with Metallica songs that were pitching back to back in the later innings of the game which was really cool and the crowd would headbang. They had this kind of choreographed headbang dance that they did to the song which was really neat but I ended up getting to meet them a couple times. One time they did a show in Berkeley at, I believe it was Amoeba Records, for Record Store Day. They played a full set in this record store. They threw up a stage in the corner and they closed the place down. It was tough to get into. I had to pull the Major League Baseball player’s card to be able to get in but I’ve gotten to know their manager a little bit and he’s become a really good friend and he’s hooked me up more than once and I really appreciate it. So they play this show for maybe like a couple hundred people and then they threw this party at the house they used to live in, I believe it’s [in] El Cerrito, over by Berkeley. They found the house they used to live in when they were first starting out in the early 80’s and they paid the people that live there now to kind of take it over for 24 hours and then they redecorated it like it used to look and there were a bunch of people there that they were friends with, especially early on in their careers but it was such a surreal experience. My wife and I were there. I brought another teammate of mine along and kind of just tried to stay out of the way for most of the night and just watch but I got to meet the guys from Metallica were there and that was really cool. I also got to meet Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel from Machine Head which was really cool. They’re big baseball fans and they came to several games and we had Robb’s son and his Little League team, we had them out and had them on the field one day before a game. That was really, really cool. Robb hooked me up with one of his signature guitars which is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been given. So yeah, like I said, I was pretty spoiled in the Bay Area but I’m looking forward to learning a lot more about this DC metal scene.

Sean Doolittle Bobblehead

Bobblehead photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

On Friday the 13th of April the Nationals play a home game against the Colorado Rockies. The first 25,000 fans that enter the stadium will be getting a bobblehead of you, and don’t get me wrong that’s pretty cool, but in 2016 when you were on the A’s still they gave away a lawn gnome of you that had you throwing the metal horns and wearing a black Metallica shirt and when you pushed a button on it it would play segments from “For Whom the Bell Tolls” which as you said was your intro music. Now how did that come about?

Hahaha. That was really cool man. That was a fun project to work on cause they let me have some input on the design of it and I said I wanted something different and they said “well what about something that had audio?” The fans had really taken to my intro song. Like I said they had this really cool kind of headbang. Oakland has a group of fans in the bleachers who got really into it and kind of made a thing out of it and so they wanted to tie that in somehow and in order for me to be wearing a Metallica shirt we had to get permission from the band to wear it so that was the beginning of getting hooked up with Metallica and meeting their manager. I ended up being able to go to their headquarters in San Rafael and kind of get a behind the scenes look at their metal laboratory/hang out which was really, really cool. Yeah and like the beard, the ginger beard that they threw on there had almost like Troll Doll hair. This thing was really cool. The bobblehead that they have now, the Nationals one, it, heh, it’s eerie how much it looks like me. I was involved a little bit in the process of making it and this one, I’m in a Nationals uniform and it doesn’t have noise but it’s so well done I hope people don’t give it to their dogs as like a dog toy or something like that. Haha. I hope they at least find a spot for it on their desk or something.

Well I’m wondering, do you think there’s a way we’ll ever get something that metal for the Nats to give away?

I hope so man, I hope so. Man the fans in DC have really welcomed me and they’ve supported me so much. I feel like I’ve played here for a really long time. When I come into the game now and they play the intro song they have these bells that look like they’re ringing on the video board. They’re starting to expand that and kind of take it and run with it a little bit and you know the fans I think if I can continue to pitch well and they continue to like me, then yeah we might be able to come up with something like that. Something a little bit different and a little bit more metal.

Yeah it seems like metal, slowly but surely, is starting to become something a little more visible in the sports world and hopefully the rest of the world. Did you happen to catch the Hungarian figure skater Ivett Tóth at the Olympics cause she came out in a studded leather battle jacket with a back patch on it for her performance at the Olympics and was skating around to “Back In Black” and “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC and I’m not a huge fan of figure skating but that was pretty amazing I thought. Do you think there’s anything about heavy metal that some athletes would really be drawn to?

That’s actually awesome. I did not know that about the figure skater but as soon as we’re done here I’m probably going to YouTube it. I think there’s a lot of parallels between metal music and sports. When my playlist was playing there were a lot of guys that this was new to them, right? They [had] never really heard any I guess extreme metal and they were like “well why do they sound so angry? This song sounds exactly like the song before it. What is going on?” The more you listen to it the more you can get a feel for the vocals and you can actually hear the lyrics and you can learn what they’re singing about and a lot of the songs there’s a substance to the lyrics, right? They’re telling a story or there’s some kind of social commentary there or there’s some weight maybe behind it. And then as far as the instrumentals go, the music itself, being able to play that fast or that loud or multiple guitar parts interweaving or overlapping over each other or the drum parts, that’s what sports is all about. You have all these moving parts that come together and they fit perfectly together and it forms a really cohesive product at the end and you spend a lot of time right on the verge of being out of control but you still are able to do all these really specific, really intricate movements. I think there’s the team aspect. If you’ve got one of the musicians in the band that’s not pulling his weight [it’s] gonna bring the quality of the music down. Same thing is true in sports. I feel like there’s a lot there. It also just gets me a little bit more fired up than some other kinds of music.

I know Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson is a big fan of music and now that he’s retired he’s taken up photography including something that I love to do which is concert photography. He’s shot bands from several different musical genres including some metal bands like Slayer, Lamb of God and Judas Priest to name a few. Have you ever met the Big Unit and if so have you ever asked him about his tastes in metal at all?

I’ve never actually met him but a few years ago in spring training I was at a concert that he was at, working. He was there to take pictures of it. You talk about like your two interests at the center of a Venn diagram I have Randy Johnson Hall of Fame pitcher taking pictures of this concert that I was at. It was an All That Remains concert in Tempe a few years ago and it was just really cool. His work is really, really good but because he’s so tall, he’s 6’10” he kind of sticks out you know? During the show it was funny to see him. He would all the sudden just appear and like rise up from above the drum kit and take a picture and then slowly just kind of crouch back down behind it. And then you wouldn’t see him for a little bit and then [during] the next song all the sudden he would pop up from behind the amplifiers on one side of the stage and you were like, “oh my god there he is again” and then he would go back down and then he would come out in front of the stage and shoot and it was just funny because we were watching the show, right cause I was with a group of baseball players, and we were watching the show but we were also mind blown by the fact that Randy Johnson was taking pictures like this and we were trying to figure out where he was going to go next. We were off to the side of the stage before the show and he was walking around back there. I didn’t want to bother him. We didn’t want to like fanboy and bother him but it was funny to watch him interact with members of some of the other bands that were there and wonder if they really had a concept of who this guy was. They might know that he played baseball before but do they really know that this is one of the best pitchers of all time? It was really neat.

Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

So do you know any other Major League Baseball players that are really into heavy metal?

There’s a few that I’ve played with over the years. There was a team that I played with in Oakland in 2012 and ’13 that had some pretty serious metal heads on it. A guy named Travis Blackley. He’s an Australian and he was into all kinds of metal. He gravitated a little bit more towards some of the bands from his home country. Parkway Drive and bands like that and we had another Australian guy in the bullpen, Grant Balfour, and he was super into heavy metal. He was the other guy that used a Metallica song to come out from the bullpen. Pat Neshek, he’s with the Phillies now but he was a metal head. John Axford, I played with him in Oakland. Now he’s in camp with the Blue Jays. He’s a big metal head. He was actually helping me with my playlist. He was making sure that I put Meshuggah and Sepultura on there. Those were bands that he played a lot in the weight room when we were in Oakland together so there’s a handful of us out there. We’re kind of few and far between but it’s a good fraternity for sure.

So when you did play that playlist at that practice did you make any conversions? Did any of the other players actually find a band or two that they really liked or anything like that?

You know, ummmm… not really haha. Like I said the playlist was kind of in chronological order and as we got towards some of the songs that I had put on there from the mid 2000’s, I had a Slipknot song on there, I had a Disturbed song on there, a Killswitch Engage song, an All That Remains song. Some guys recognized that stuff. I put a Volbeat song on there and a Five Finger Death Punch song on there. Those are bands that get played in the weight room right now. Actually we had a pitcher last year, and he’s still on the team now, a guy named Ryan Madson, who came out to a Khemmis song last year so I put a Khemmis song on the metal playlist and guys liked that. They seem to like when they can clearly understand the words and would prefer clean singing to some of the screams and the growls but we get some heavier stuff that plays in the weight room but it’s usually in the vein of a Volbeat or Five Finger Death Punch or Disturbed or something like that. I kind of took it to the next level and definitely blew some people’s minds.

So when do you usually listen to music anyways? Sort of like driving in the car or is it mostly when you’re working out or doing warm ups or when do you like to listen to music?

Yeah it’s mostly when I’m around the field. In the weight room I’ll put my headphones on and when I’m doing my warm up before practice or working out after practice or getting in some kind of running I feel like I gotta have my music to get me through some of that stuff. Right before the game I actually go the complete opposite direction and I’ll meditate and put on something like instrumental. I’ve realized, maybe I’m getting older but, I’ve realized that I pitch better when I’m a little bit calmer and if I get super jacked up before the game sometimes I take the mound and I’m a little bit over amped but then right after the game while the adrenaline is still flowing I’ll put it back on to do whatever post game stuff I have to do or if I pitched that night a lot of times I have to work out or do some kind of arm exercises to kind of shut it down after I throw. So I mean, pretty much when I’m at the field but one of my favorite things to do, my wife can attest to this, is just to throw my headphones on, grab my laptop and just sit on the couch and listen to music. I’ll have the tv on but I obviously can’t hear it and whether I’m on iTunes or Spotify, just trying to find new bands. I like listening to new stuff that I haven’t heard before and kind of exploring a little bit and that’s one of my favorite things to do. Calm down and just maybe get away from baseball for a little while and just listen to music.

Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle prefers Metallica

I’ve got a few typical metal questions that I’d like to ask. I think I know the answer to the first one but who do you prefer, Metallica or Megadeth?

Metallica, hahaha.

So what do you think about in Black Sabbath? Do you like Ozzy [Osbourne] or [Ronnie James] Dio better?

Ozzy just because that was kind of the original and that was also what I heard first. You know like how whatever you hear first is kind of like the thing that you associate it with the most whether that was actually the thing that came first or not. So I love Dio and I made sure that I had some Dio on that playlist but I have to say Ozzy.

Alright so how about with Anthrax? Do you prefer Joey Belladonna or John Bush era?

I haven’t gotten into Anthrax and I’m from New Jersey. I’m from close to where they’re from. I need to get on the train. So actually I’ll flip this on you and ask, where should I start with their catalog? Cause that’s part of the problem is that I don’t know where to start and it feels pretty overwhelming. If I’m gonna start, where should I start with?

I think most people would say Among the Living is probably where you would start with Anthrax.

Ok.

That’s sort of their classic album. When they play an album straight through it’s usually that one.

Ok.

Now currently they’ve got Joey Belladonna back in the band so that might be part of it too cause I do not believe that he does the songs with John Bush. John Bush is now the singer for Armored Saint so he’s still doing stuff too just not with Anthrax.

Ok.

Another question then is, what’s the best metal concert you’ve ever been to?

Oh man, uhhhhh… let’s see. I don’t get to as many as I really would like to because we travel so much and in the off season I tend to be a little bit of a homebody and just kind of recharge my batteries for a couple months but in 2016 I saw Corrosion of Conformity and Lamb of God at the Fox Theater in Oakland and that was awesome. That was really cool. That was actually the last one that I’ve been to, geez Louise, so I would probably say that one. I got to talk to Randy [Blythe, vocalist of Lamb of God] after the show which was really cool to just even meet him. That was really awesome.

What was your first metal concert then?

I didn’t go to a metal concert for a while. The first one I went to was, I think it was in 2012. I went to a show in Tempe called The Ghost Inside. I went with aforementioned Travis Blackley, a teammate of mine who was on the A’s, we were on the A’s together and yeah we saw The Ghost Inside and Stray From The Path. I guess that’s hardcore, post punk hardcore, whatever you want to call it but it was heavy and it was fucking awesome.

Do you play any instruments?

No I don’t. I, heh heh, want to but I played the piano growing up and I played it all the way up into high school but shoot, I don’t even think I could do that any more. I don’t even know if I could still do music but no I don’t play any instruments. I don’t really have that much rhythm.

Alright so what’s your all time favorite band then?

All time favorite band, I have to start with Metallica and from there I don’t know man like you could ask me this question next week and it could be totally different but the ones that I come back to the most, I would say, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Death, Machine Head and Meshuggah.

Alright, alright. That’s a pretty good selection there.

Yeah I think that would be my top five but after it a disclaimer, subject to change.

So what’s the most influential album to you? You know everybody’s kind of got an album that really just means something to them or changed the way they looked at music or something like that.

For me I think it’s Metallica‘s Ride the Lightning. I know this is turning into a Metallica podcast and I apologize for that.

It’s alright man, it’s alright.

That was the first album that I bought with my allowance money when I was a kid. I remember if I was like shopping with my mom and I was good I got to go to the music store. I think I bought it when I was in maybe fifth grade, no seventh grade. It was seventh grade. I had some friends in school that liked Metallica and I had listened to the black album [officially Metallica‘s self titled album] a lot. My dad would play it in the car and stuff but I wanted this one. I was super drawn to the album artwork and I remember I bought it. I’d never heard it before. I just thought it looked really cool and I knew it was Metallica so I wanted it. I bought it. I brought it home. I put it in my boombox in my room and I pressed play and the [first] song opens with acoustic guitars. And I was like, “oh shit. I bought the wrong album. What is this? I don’t understand” and keep in mind I’m in the seventh grade. I’d never heard “Fight Fire with Fire” before and they start with these hauntingly beautiful acoustic guitars and then all the sudden this thrash just hits you right in your face and I was like, “yes! Yeah, this is what I need!” and then by the end of that evening my parents were throwing stuff at the ceiling cause I was playing my music too loud in my room.

Cover of Ride the Lightning by Metallica

Cover of Ride the Lightning by Metallica

Hahahaha. That was one of my first metal album purchases as well. I remember showing it to my dad being like, “hey I’m going to buy this, ok?” and I remember him flipping it over to look at the songs on the back and I was like, “there’s no way in hell he’s going to let me get this album with these songs like ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ and ‘Trapped Under Ice’ and things like that on it” and he read them over and he’s like, “alright, you can get it” and I was like, “oh no way.” I just remember being so excited that he even let me buy it, you know with my own money but still. And I found out years later that the real thing he was looking for at that time was he just wanted to make sure the songs weren’t all about sex. You know he didn’t mind that there was some electric chair on the cover of this thing and it was called Ride the Lightning so somehow I ended up getting that and I played the hell out of that tape. It was one of the first tapes I had that actually wore out from how many times I’d played it.

That’s awesome. And it didn’t have the parental advisory warning on the front.

Exactly.

So like how bad could it be, right?

You talked about it a little bit earlier but I’d like to know how do you find new music, new metal bands to check out? Do you have certain websites or magazines or what do you use to find new stuff?

I read Decibel. I’ve found a lot of stuff on there but really one of my favorite things to do is on iTunes, I’ll go to the iTunes store and they always have albums in the metal genre section. There’s albums that are featured, there’s new music, new releases and I’ll just click on one and I’ll start listening to it and then depending on how I’m feeling I’ll go to related and scroll down and check out other bands that are either related or other songs that people bought. You know, people who bought this also bought this, and just kind of check it out and the next thing I know I’ve gone down this metal rabbit hole where I’m listening to stuff I’ve never even heard of before and then sometimes I’ll Google an album to look at for review to see is this really as good as I think it is? But most of the time I just bounce around iTunes for hours listening to different stuff that I’ve never heard of before or I’ll start with an album I have in my library and go from there. It’s a good way to kill three or four hours.

Yeah I do some similar stuff like that. I’m always digging for new stuff too. So what have been some of your favorite albums of late, in the last say year?

Let’s see I really, really, really liked the new Power Trip album. I guess that came out last year.

Yeah, Nightmare Logic, that’s a great album.

I thought 2017 was a really good year for metal. I have no idea what other people thought about it but the newest Pallbearer album, Heartless, I really liked. The Haunted came back with a new album that I really liked, Strength in Numbers. I played the hell out of that. I don’t listen to a ton of new stuff. A lot of the stuff I listen to is older. I played those three a lot. I know Obituary had a new one last year that I thought was really good. Thy Art Is Murder, I liked that one. Dear Desolation I think it was called. Fit for an Autopsy, Jersey guys. I’m originally from New Jersey so I like that one a lot. Those are ones that I listened to quite a bit.

Now you’re saying you were from New Jersey before. You’re down from like the Philly area right? So you probably grew up a Phillies fan and now you’re on the Nationals. How’s that going? Hahaha.

It’s awesome actually but one of the coolest things is now I share a bullpen with Ryan Madson who we talked about before. He was a really big part of those Phillies teams in ’08 and ’09 that went to the World Series so now to play with him, to share a bullpen with him and learn from him everyday is such a cool experience. By the time those teams, they went to the World Series, I was already in the Oakland Athletics minor league system but growing up in the Philly area and having friends from there and having been a Phillies fan before I got drafted I was paying attention to it and I knew how much that run that they made mattered to Phillies fans and the city of Philadelphia and stuff like that so for that part of it to come full circle was really cool and I finally got to play in Citizens Bank Park last year for the first time since I was in high school. I played in a high school tournament that we got to play one game at Citizens Bank Park but to be able to play there in the major leagues was, it was really cool. It was one of the only stadiums I hadn’t played in in my career and I get goose bumps just thinking about it. It was really a special experience.

You also are a UVA grad. You played for the Cavaliers there before you were drafted by the A’s. So I have to ask, how are you doing with that UMBC win the other night?

Hahahaha. Oh man. Hey this is good. Let’s see it took like 40 minutes to get to bringing that up so I appreciate that because there have been several people, mainly my teammates, that could not wait to bring that up. I’m doing ok. I’m doing ok. The second half it was so ugly that I think I went through all of the stages of grieving in the last ten minutes of the game and by the end of it I was like alright. I watched the UMBC game the other night cause I wanted them to win. I think objectively it would have been a really fun game to watch if you weren’t a UVA fan. I just feel for the coach, Tony Bennett. I feel for the seniors on that team for all that they’ve accomplished in their careers at UVA. They won 31 games and they won the ACC regular season and conference tournament but at the end of the day this is probably what’s going to define them and I just feel for them man. I feel for them but, shoot, there’s always next year and if anything it just shows how lucky we are to have Tony Bennett as a coach. The guy running that program has handled it better than [I] could have ever hoped for. You never think that’s going to happen but that’s sports.

Yeah I was actually at a metal show, the night of that going on, in Baltimore. So you know the people up in Baltimore were pretty excited about that. Nobody believed it was happening.

Haha. Oh my gosh. It was happening. Heh heh. It happened. Oh man. Sheez. Yeah I bet Baltimore was going nuts. It was probably a different vibe than my apartment. I was pacing around for two hours.

Operation Finally Home logo

Now there’s something more serious I’d like to talk with you about. Doing research for this interview I quickly discovered that along with being a metal head and a major league pitcher you’re also quite the philanthropist. In June of 2015 the A’s had a gay pride night which apparently got a lot of backlash from some of the team’s fans and you and your wife bought hundreds of tickets to that game and donated them to local LGBTQ groups. In November of the same year you two hosted 17 families of Syrian refugees for Thanksgiving dinner and you’ve done things like publicly denounce Donald Trump after his awful “grab them by the pussy” comments and you work for a charity that helps veterans called Operation Finally Home. Now I come from a Navy family myself and I’d like you to tell me what this charity does for veterans.

Ok so Operation Finally Home is an awesome charity that, they’re based in New Braunfels, Texas, kind of near San Antonio, and they help military families all over the country and they build mortgage free, brand new homes for wounded veterans and their families or families of the fallen. What’s awesome is they take into account the needs of the veteran, whether it’s the mother or the father of the family, and if there’s any specific things that they need for the house, if it needs to be wheelchair accessible or something like that. That way they’re not getting a house that’s retrofitted or something that’s been lived in already. They get a brand new house. A couple things that really stand out to me is the way that they get the community involved in the process of building of the house because they go into these communities, these towns across the country, and they find local contractors and builders and workers that are willing to donate their time or their materials so that they’re all kind of invested in welcoming this family into their new home and into their community and seeing the way that these families go from serving their country to serving their community, becoming really involved in some of the community activities that they have going on. This is like the biggest thing that they could have possibly taken off their plate is having a place to live. Having a new home. And it’s been amazing to keep in touch with some of these families and to see how involved they get in their communities and how much that they take this opportunity and make the absolute most of it and it’s a great organization. We’ve worked with them for several years and every Christmas my wife and I, it’s one of our favorite things to do. We go shopping for a couple of these families so that their first Christmas in their new home is a little bit more special and extra memorable and we make sure that there is plenty of presents under their tree and just let them know that there’s people that are thinking about them and with everything that they’ve been through we just want their first Christmas in their new home to be everything that they envisioned that it could possibly be. They’ve worked with a handful of families in the DC area as well and we’re looking forward to getting involved with them and doing some more stuff with them cause they’re really a special group.

Do you know how people can donate or other ways they can help this group?

Yeah you can go on Operation Finally Home‘s website and you can get a bunch of information there. You can check out projects that they have around the country. They have a map that shows some projects that are currently in progress and you can see if you can get involved or help out with any of those. You can donate on there. So I would just say check out OperationFinallyHome.org and you can learn a lot more about it there. One of the cool things that they do is they always surprise the family in like a weird way when they’re least expecting it. They might think that their surprise is that they got to go to a Houston Texans game or something like that and then the next thing you know they find out, while they’re at the game, they get surprised with the news that they’re getting a new house and to see their reaction to see how much it means to them, it’s pretty heavy stuff and it’s a good example of just how special of an organization it is.

Well I know it’s easy to talk about respecting and supporting veterans but you and your wife Eireann really do walk the walk and I do respect you a lot for that. So that’s pretty much it for my questions here. Thanks for taking the time to do all this with me. I know you guys had a spring training game today and I’m sure you get more and more busy as the regular season approaches. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the metal heads and the Nationals fans in the DC area?

Heh heh. No man just that I’m looking forward to getting back to DC and I’m looking forward to a fresh start to a new season and the Nats fans have been so welcoming to me and my wife since we’ve come over. We can’t wait to get back to work. I appreciate you having me on. I appreciate you letting me talk about Operation Finally Home and both my wife and I come from military families so veterans issues are something that are very, very important to us [and something] we try to stay involved in so we’ll probably be doing some more of that stuff this year as well.

Alright man. Well thanks again for coming on here with me and let’s hope the Nationals have another great run this year.

Thanks man. Thanks for having me.

Alright, take it easy.

2 Comments

  1. I came to read this article via @federalbaseball’s retweet and I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this interview. Sean is just a delight on the field and off. I also wanted to compliment Metal Chris for this excellent blog post. It might sound a bit dorky, but this post gets it right. Great subject, great questions, fully transcribed/linked/tagged, and even the photos have proper credits.

    Thanks to both of you – I learned something new about DC today!

  2. http://Islamcwilliam67.Soup.Io/Post/647898247/Elevator-Pitches-Not-Just-For-Elevators

    Interview with Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals | DCHeavyMetal.com


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