Towards the end of his press conference announcing the end of his playing days, after 11 major league seasons, five of them with the Nationals, Sean Doolittle was asked what he thought the next chapter of his professional career might look like.
“I’ve thought about it a lot,” the 37-year-old southpaw said, “... and as you get older in your career I think it’s natural to think about it, and I’ve had a bunch of injuries, so I’ve had time to think about it too — but one thing I kept coming back to is, ‘I might be done playing baseball, but I’m not sure if I’m done with baseball.’ I have a ton of passion and energy left for baseball, and especially everything that I learned over the last 3-4-5 years, trying to keep my career going, I’ve learned so much and I’ve experienced so much throughout my career, and I’ve found myself — like I got a ton of fulfillment out of working with other guys and trying to help the young guys the way that guys helped me when I was coming up in the league and stuff. I got a ton of fulfillment from that, and so even though I don’t know exactly what it would look like as far as a specific role, I would love to give back to the game.
“The game did so much for me, I would love to give back to the game and continue to help the younger generation of players.”
Washington defined his role as, “... a liaison between the analytics department and pitching staff, [who will assist] [Nats’ manager Davey Martinez] and pitching coach [Jim Hickey] with strategy, mental preparation and mechanics,” when the Nationals announced they’ve hired Doolittle as a “Pitching Strategist” on Tuesday afternoon.
“Sean Doolittle was always an extremely talented pitcher,” Nationals’ President of Baseball Ops and GM Mike Rizzo said in the press release on Doolittle’s new job.
“But he is also one of the most intelligent baseball minds you can find. We’re incredibly excited to have him on our staff to help guide our talented group of young pitchers.”
“I can’t thank the Lerner family, Mike Rizzo, and Davey Martinez enough for all they’ve done for me and my family,” Doolittle said in the same press release.
“I love the Nationals and Washington D.C., and look forward to this new challenge while remaining an active member of an organization that means so much to me.”
Doolittle was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the 1st Round (41st overall) in 2007, (as a first baseman), but he converted to relief work, “and [Doolittle] made his MLB debut in 2012, after just 17 professional games on the mound.”
In his 11 seasons in the majors, the lefty made 463 appearances and saved 112 games, with a 3.20 ERA and 2.94 FIP for his career.
Doolittle was a big part of 2019’s run to the World Series, but he struggled with injuries over the years which followed, and ultimately made the decision to call it a career, after one final attempt to get back on the mound in the majors this past season.
“I put everything I had into the rehab processes over the last two years to try to pitch again here at Nats Park,” he explained as he officially retired in September.
“I did everything I could, and I think that’s why today for me — this is a happy day. I don’t have any regrets, I did everything that I could, and I enjoyed it.
“I enjoyed the process of working on that stuff, and trying to change my mechanics to see if I could figure out a way to take the stress off my knee and still be effective, and also working with the young guys that were down there was a lot of fun too. So I still was getting a ton of fulfillment out of it, I was enjoying it, unfortunately by the end my body just wasn’t going to let me keep doing.”
His body might not be able to do it, but the Nationals believe Doolittle’s baseball mind still has something to offer.