Born: September 26, 1986
Town: Tabernacle Township
Sean Robert Doolittle was born September 26, 1986 in Rapid City, South Dakota and grew up in the Burlington County town of Tabernacle Township. He lived close to the neighborhood baseball field and often practice by himself on the mound. Sean’s father, a military man, was involved in a number of veterans’ charities. Sean starred in youth league ball, and was already attracting scouts when he enrolled at Shawnee High in nearby Medford—not just as a hard-throwing southpaw but as a left-handed slugger, as well.
Sean led the Renegades to the state championship as a senior in 2004. In the title game, an extra-inning affair, he set a new prep record with 24 strikeouts. The Atlanta Braves drafted Sean in the 39th round, suspecting that he would pick college over pro ball. He did, but demanded that he be able to be a full-time pitcher and hitter. The University of Virginia agreed and Sean became a Cavalier, pitching and playing first base and the outfield.
Sean enjoyed a first-team All-Freshman season in 2005, batting .313 with 11 homers, and then made the US national squad before he turned 20. He made Team USA again as a sophomore and finished his three-year collegiate career with 22 mound victories and a batting average over .300. In the 2007 draft, the Oakland A’s selected Sean—as a hitter—with the 41st overall pick. The following year, Oakland took Sean’s younger brother, Ryan, a right-handed pitcher, in the 26th round.
Injuries plagued Sean during his first five years in the minors. Despite a 22-homer breakout year at the plate in 2008, he decided to return to the pitching mound in 2012. After lighting it up at three levels that spring, he was called up to the A’s in June. In 2014, he earned a share of the closer’s role and saved 22 games. He made the All-Star Game that summer, and struck out two of the three batters he faced. His swing-and-miss stuff was ranked among the best in the majors.
The injury bug bit Sean again in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, the A’s were careful in spring training not to overwork him. But in May he landed on the DL yet again with a shoulder strain. He returned in June and was almost unhittable. Unfortunately, the A’s were out of the AL West race. When the Washington Nationals offered Blake Treinan and a pair of prospects for Sean and Ryan Madson, Oakland pulled the trigger.
Sean helped stabilized a shaky Nats bullpen as Washington prepared for a playoff run, saving 21 games with a 2.40 ERA and better than a strikeout an inning. In the playoffs against the Cubs, Sean appeared in three of the five games. He yielded one hit and struck out four in three appearances, saving a Washington victory in Game 2. He pitched the final inning of the team’s bizarre Game 5 loss.
Sean saved 25 games and had a 1.50 ERA for the Nationals in 2018 and was selected for the All-Star Game. He missed time with a toe injury, creating instability in the Washington bullpen. In 2019, he was healthy and led the league with 55 games finished. However, he was not as effective in the closer's role. Even so, Sean was a key man in the team's run to the World Series title, saving Game 1 and making two more scoreless appearances against the Astros.