Interview with a Doolittle

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When I first contacted Sean Doolittle, closer for the Oakland Athletics, I wasn’t even sure I would get a response, let alone an interview. As you can imagine I was thoroughly surprised when he responded and agreed to answer my questions. His only request? That a couple of my questions be a little “off the wall.”

Well, what did I expect from Doolittle? Every A’s fan knows that he’s a bit of a jokester. He has been a major personality on this roster for a few years now, and definitely a fan favorite. In fact, he’s such a fan favorite that the fans voted him as the face of the franchise in Major League Baseball’s #FaceofMLB competition.

The #FaceofMLB is a social media based competition that pits two players from different teams head to head, and allows the fans to vote on who should be the face of the entire MLB. Through the first few rounds of the competition, Doolittle has already defeated multiple opponents such as Jose Altuve, Yadier Molina, and Seattle ace, Felix Hernandez. In the next round he will go head to head with San Francisco’s pride and joy, Buster Posey.

Voting began this morning, and is open until 5 a.m tomorrow morning, (Tuesday the 24th) so make sure you vote using the hashtags #SeanDoolittle and #FaceofMLB on your Twitter account or the MLB Network Facebook page. You can only vote up to 25 times per round, so make sure you tell all of your friends!

As you would imagine, having a conversation with any major league baseball player is exciting.  Doolittle has been a favorite of mine since the 2012 season, so this was definitely special. Keep in mind that this was not an in-person interview, so even though some of his answers pleaded for a follow up question, it just wasn’t possible. I could have come up with a hundred more questions to ask our 9th inning man, but he is a busy guy and I wouldn’t want to distract him from his rehab process any more than I already had. This was a really cool experience for me, and I hope I can look forward to having conversations with other A’s players as the season progresses.

My Q and A with Sean Doolittle:

I want to make these questions fun for you to answer, and fun for the fans to read, but I think I would be remiss if I didn’t at least ask you how your shoulder is feeling?

My shoulder is feeling a lot better thanks for asking.  We got an ultrasound done on it last week (it’s a boy!) and the rotator cuff is looking a lot better so I was cleared to begin the strengthening phase of the rehab process.  I still have a bit to go before I can start charging admission for the gun show, but I’m pain free and progressing every day.

 Spring training is just around the corner, are you excited?

I am very excited for spring training.  A lot has been made about the moves we made this offseason, and I am very much looking forward to being a part of the 2015 version of the Athletics for a lot of reasons.  This team is younger and hungrier than last season’s (think 2012 or 2013) and is coming into the season under the radar, with something to prove.  I think that mentality, combined with the depth and versatility on this roster, will make for a fun season. (In fact, I am so excited about the new look of our ball club that I tend to ramble on and on about it like an anxious school boy. Can you tell?)

 Everyone knows that things can get a little crazy during spring training with all the “team bonding” going on. What’s your favorite spring training story involving a teammate?

The ground work for your team’s chemistry and your team’s identity is laid over the 6-7 weeks of spring training.  Trash talking during March Madness and talent shows and golf outings are all fun ways to get to know your teammates and start developing that all important clubhouse chemistry.  One of my favorite moments (that I can divulge) happened last year when Billy Burns’ Mercer Bears upset Nate Freiman’s Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA college basketball tournament and Freiman (6’9”) spent the next morning squeezed into Burns’ (5’10”ish) old Mercer garb.

 Obviously spring training is a time for players to get back into baseball mode, but everyone knows that sunny Arizona provides a great environment for getting some extracurricular activities in during a player’s down time. What’s your favorite thing to do during your off time in Arizona?

We are spoiled spending spring training in Arizona.  All of the teams are within an hour drive of each other, the weather is amazing, and there’s lots to do.  There are literally a billion golf courses here in the Valley, and if you don’t feel like spending four hours trying to find your ball in the desert, check out the brand new driving range Top Golf.  If you still have energy after that you can go shopping because no matter where you are you’re never more than a well struck 5 iron from a mall.  After all that you’ll probably be hungry so you’ll want to check out a couple of the area’s best restaurants (Grimaldi’s, Oregano’s, and Culinary Dropout are 3 of my favorites right now).  Recently I’ve spent a lot of time taking my dog (and girlfriend) on some of the hiking trails in the area and I’ve found it’s a great way to get a sunburn and take in the amazing desert landscape.

 What were your first thoughts when you learned that the fans voted you as the Face of the Athletics Franchise, and did you think you would make it this far in the competition?

When I found out I was voted to represent the A’s in the #FaceOfMLB contest, I was actually really surprised.  Not only are there other guys probably more deserving than me (Coco, Vogt, Sonny?) but I was damaged goods!  I was broken and would start the season on the DL, so I didn’t think I’d make it very far in the competition but A’s fans have brought their “A” game and I’ve really enjoyed all of the creative tweets.  (I’m still not sure if they are tweeting to support me or if they are tweeting to hijack the contest and flip the game on it’s head, but I’ve had a blast reading all the tweets and looking at all the pictures I’ve been photoshopped into.)

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There have been a lot of funny memes and pictures posted on Twitter about you during the competition. Do you go through and look at them? What is your favorite one so far?

I have had a lot of fun scrolling through all of the tweets that our fans have tagged me in throughout the whole #FaceOfMLB contest on Twitter.  There are too many great ones to pick just one favorite though.  I’ve been so impressed with all of the photoshopped pictures and memes and Vines that A’s fans have made.  Plus it makes me look like I lead a much more interesting life than I probably do.  I also have had a lot of fun interacting with our fans on Twitter during the contest.

 If you go all the way, and win the entire competition, what will you do?

If I win the competition, I will probably have a pizza party.  And then maybe take a nap?  Or read a book instead of my Twitter mentions tab? (I have no idea what I would do.  Maybe ride into the Coliseum on Opening Day on the back of an elephant like some sort of triumphant conquering hero?)

 Some baseball players have a strange routine or regiment they have to follow before a game to succeed. Do you have anything that you do that may be a little quirky to prepare for gameday?

I am very superstitious and I don’t think we have enough time to go over all of my quirks and routines that I have before games.  Everything I do – the route I take to the field, what I eat before the game, what I wear under my uniform, the music I listen to – it all helps me get ready to pitch that night.  My routines are planned out down to the minute, and if I can’t adhere to them or start running late, I get really stressed and cranky (just ask Cookie).  Wow that sounds a lot like OCD.  Maybe I should get that checked out.

 It’s common knowledge that the skipper, Bob Melvin, is very superstitious. Do you or other players ever use that to mess with him? 

Bob has a lot of superstitions, but I don’t want to jinx anything so I won’t divulge any of them here.  In the game of baseball, there are so many things that are outside of our control, so we come up with these things we do to help with that. We’ll try anything to keep the good luck on our side and we all know how much (and how quickly) things can change in this game, so no one ever gives another guy too much grief for any superstition he has.  I think since a lot of guys in our locker room have superstitions of their own, no one would ever dare mess with the manager about his.

 What is the craziest thing a fan has ever done to get your attention?

Being in the bullpen is a lot like being an animal on display at the zoo.  People can come watch us move around our cage, hoping to catch an up-close glimpse of a guy as he moves around to start stretching and warm up.  They yell at you, throw things at you, try to get your attention, and will do anything to get your autograph despite the signs specifically instructing fans to refrain from seeking autographs during the game.  And, when your last name is Doolittle, you hear a lot of really, really bad jokes over the course of a season so it’s hard to narrow it down to just one.

Which is a better feeling: Knowing that you have inspired countless of men to grow beards, or knowing that you have helped bolster confidence in hundreds of awkward redheaded teenagers that used to think that they could never be good looking?

I would like to think that I have done both.  Everyone can grow a beard…but not everyone can grow a ginger beard!

So far, which player have you struck out that impresses you the most?

 I got lucky and struck out Mike Trout once I think.  Maybe it was a dream I had, I can’t be sure.  I have an incredible amount of respect for his talent and the way he plays the game and the way he’s handled all the attention that’s come his way.  Being from the same area of NJ, I follow his career (sometimes more closely than I would care to – like when I follow the ball he hit off me over the fence) and every time I go back to South Jersey I make sure everyone knows I struck him out once.

If you could pick any player in MLB to pitch against that you have yet to face, who would it be?

This is a tough question that I really don’t have a good answer to.  I would have liked to have faced Todd Helton.  He was my favorite player growing up – because he too played 1B and pitched in college.  He probably would have smoked a line drive into left center off me though so I guess the guy that I want to most face is … ? (Ok fine, I really just want to pitch to a lefty who doesn’t fare well vs. LHP)

This is something that A’s fans debate on occasion: not counting the Giants, which team would you consider to be the A’s biggest rival?

 Aside from the Giants, I think our rival changes every year.  Of course, any time you match up with a division opponent the stakes are higher.  2012 and 2013 I think we had a pretty heated rivalry with the Rangers.  In 2014, it was the Angels.  Over the course of the season, you see the way the division race unfolds, and you know which team you’re going to have to beat if you want to win the division.

Lastly, is there anything that you would like to say to the fans regarding the upcoming season?

I think there is a lot for A’s fans to be excited about in regards to this upcoming season.  An influx of young talent has given us more depth and versatility than we’ve had since I’ve been in Oakland.  A lot has been made of the trades and transactions made during the season last year and throughout the offseason, but I honestly think we are a better, more well-rounded team than we were last year.  We may have traded away some big names, but this team will play with a lot of passion and energy; with something to prove.  I hope the fans will continue to support us the way they have over the past 3 seasons and continue to make the Coliseum a huge home field advantage for us.  I think we’re both gonna have a lot of fun this year.

I’m sure you can see why so many fans gravitate towards Doolittle. He’s witty and outgoing. He engages with fans, and truly loves playing for the Oakland Athletics. He’s a great person that just happens to be a great player. He has a remarkable story behind him as well, and everybody loves a fairytale.

For those of you who don’t know, Sean grew up a big A’s fan. It’s rare that a kid gets drafted by his favorite team, but it happened to Doolittle. He was drafted 41st overall in the 2007 draft, by the Oakland Athletics. At the time he was a highly touted prospect at first base. Unfortunately, every fairytale story has a bad guy, and in Sean’s case it was injuries. Several knee surgeries, compounded by wrist problems, had his hopes and dreams of being a professional baseball player slipping away. At this point he knew he had to change something.

Doolittle began pitching. He had pitched some in college, and decided that throwing the ball instead of hitting the ball could be his ticket to the big show. Within a couple of months Doolittle had pitched his way through multiple minor league levels and into the majors. Now he is the closer of the Oakland Athletics.

Great player. Check. Great story. Check. Great person. Check. Great beard. Check.

I don’t know if he’ll be the Face of MLB, but he’s definitely the (gloriously bearded) face of the Oakland Athletics.

Next: Our Podcast Featuring Doolittle

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