When Washington Nationals ace relief pitcher Sean Doolittle travels to away games, he uses his free time to hunt down local, independently owned bookstores. He posts his findings on his Twitter feed to help raise awareness for the oftentimes struggling bookstores.
Small bookstores are one of the many causes locally and nationally that Doolittle has taken under his wing. In mid-May, he sat down with his wife Eireann Dolan and turned his attention to another cause they both advocate for – LGBTQ rights.
With Pride season approaching, Doolittle and Dolan put their heads together to come up with an idea that would be a monthlong celebration.
“Pride Nights at Major League Baseball stadiums are awesome, but I wanted to take things up a notch,” Doolittle says. “We thought about it and I decided I wanted to do something different and visual, something with my spikes.”
The couple found an art supply store while in Cincinnati, checked the paint markers to match the thought process and returned to the hotel where Doolittle sketched out ideas. His adidas game cleats would soon become a canvas to reflect his support.
On June 1 at Pride Community Night at the Cincinnati Red’s Great American Ballpark, Doolittle debuted his red adidas cleats that he had hand-painted with the trans flag on his right shoe and the rainbow flag on his left shoe.
“The way my spikes are designed, they have the three adidas stripes on each shoe,” Doolittle says. “I sketched out a couple designs before I started painting to orient the colors on the shoes.”
Doolittle took to Twitter to show his support. He has dubbed himself Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle under the account name, @whatwouldDOOdo:
Happy #Pride to my LGBTQ friends and family — we love you, support you and we’re grateful for you. I’m proud to celebrate and stand with you because everyone deserves to feel safe and free to be who they are and to love who they love. Love is love.
On June 4 at Night OUT at the Nationals at Nationals Park, Doolittle was once again in his painted cleats and this time he was sporting a Nationals-branded rainbow shirt under his Nats uniform. He was also a part of the pregame activities honoring LGBT people including former Congressman Barney Frank.
“The paint has been chipping as I wear them, so I have been touching them up. It’s been a labor of love,” Doolittle says. “I have received compliments on them from my Nats teammates and they have asked about the trans flag. It’s a small thing, but representation matters.”
The gesture continues efforts that Doolittle and Dolan started in 2015.
They received national attention that year when they purchased hundreds of tickets to the Oakland Athletics Pride Night after the event received backlash from fans. The tickets were donated to local LGBTQ groups and an additional $40,000 was raised.
Doolittle was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Washington Nationals in July, 2017. He eloped with Dolan one day after the regular baseball season ended that year.
Local LGBTQ youth leadership and housing program SMYAL caught the attention of Doolittle and Dolan and they have made multiple onsite visits to the SMYAL youth program’s headquarters and the SMYAL transitional housing program.
Dolan, who has two moms, became a SMYAL board member in 2018 and two-time Major League Baseball All-Star Doolittle, was the cover story of last year’s Washington Blade Sports Issue.
Doolittle will be at one more Major League Baseball Pride Night on June 29 for Pride in the Park against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. At both the Pride Community Night in Cincinnati and at Night OUT in Washington D.C. against the Chicago White Sox, the Nationals picked up wins and Doolittle stepped in for the save.
In both games he also managed to obtain a game ball, and both balls have been authenticated with a hologram sticker by Major League Baseball. The plan is the same for the Miami game.
The baseballs and the cleats will then be auctioned off to benefit SMYAL.
“I know all the conversations about rainbow capitalism, you know it’s out there. I want to use my platform to promote inclusivity and acceptance and drive some traffic for SMYAL,” Doolittle says. “What adidas did recently was an example of when giving back comes full circle. And that’s really cool.”
While adidas does sell a Pride line of clothing called Love Unites, to celebrate Pride this year, the company donated $250,000 to The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people.
“Baseball and sports can be a vehicle that creates change. There are people who don’t feel welcome in sports and we want them to feel welcome,” Doolittle says. “There are people on the inside (of sports) that love them and support them. At the end of the day, it is what I stand for and what I believe in.”
Last Saturday was “Star Wars” Day at Nationals Park and the first 10,000 fans received a limited-edition Obi-Sean Kenobi bobblehead. Doolittle is a “Star Wars” fanatic and the bobblehead is an incredible likeness of him in a Jedi robe with a blue light saber. He calls the theme day “one of my favorite days of the year.”
Doolittle’s passion for inclusivity and acceptance has been mostly supported by his fans and he has received only a small amount of backlash. His Twitter post on June 1 about the cleats had some negative comments which have since been deleted.
“We are seeing less of those comments every year,” Doolittle says. “I hope that means we are making a difference.”