(Editor's note: Earlier this month, Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle was named an All-Star for the second time in his career. A converted first baseman, his previous selection came in 2014, when he was pitching for the Oakland Athletics. That year, the Midsummer Classic took place in Minneapolis, some 2,000 miles away from the Bay Area. This time around, it happened right in his backyard. Sadly, a foot injury forced Doolittle to go on the DL two days after All-Star rosters were announced, so he wasn't able to participate in the game. He did, however, participate in pretty much everything else. And then some.)
Sunday, July 8: Getting the nod
After I got traded over here last year, I found myself in this new role as the closer, and there were all these signs around the ballpark about the All-Star Game. It's tough to say that I made that a goal, because it's an individual thing, but I wanted to do well enough here that I had a chance to go to that. To be able to represent the team you play for in your home city for the All-Star Game -- that's such a special experience. It was somewhat motivating for me during the offseason. It's something that was on my radar throughout this season.
I went to one of these things four years ago, but four years is a long time to go between All-Star Games. I've been through a lot since then. I've had a number of different injuries, I've been traded, and my role's changed, well, I don't know how many times. It was very emotional for me when I found out because it's so hard to make it as a reliever. There are so many guys that are throwing the baseball so well and have an ERA under 2.00. I think I made a good case for myself, but you could make really good cases for like 10 other guys that didn't even get to go to the game. So just to be selected after everything that's transpired, that was a really special moment for me.
Nats fans! I'm so grateful for the opportunity to represent the home city at the All Star Game. You have been so supportive of my wife and me ever since we've got here. DC already holds a very special place in our hearts and I can't wait to experience this with you guys.— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) July 9, 2018
Sunday July 15: Coming in hot
I took the team flight back Sunday night from New York and I swung by my apartment. Then Eireann (my wife) and I drove to the hotel. It was the Marriott Marquis, the big one with the Convention Center attached to it. Even though we live here in D.C., we stayed at the hotel because we wanted to be right downtown in the middle of all of that craziness. I had some family coming in, and they were going to be staying there as well, so logistically it made things easier. (We didn't bring the dogs with us because our schedule was going to be too crazy. But they got to do the doggy daycare thing, so it worked out for them.)
We checked into the room -- we literally dropped our bags -- and went straight to the All-Star gala and caught the last hour-and-a-half of that. It was a really cool event at the African-American History Museum. We walked in just as Common was playing his last song. Eireann was really mad at me that we didn't get there sooner because she's a Common fan. I'm not that familiar with his music, but there was something really cool about him playing at that museum, given everything it stands for. It was cool to feel that energy and be in that space.
Monday morning: Trick-or-treat
We ended up not getting back to the room until late Sunday, so Monday morning we slept in a little bit. They had a pretty good brunch spread at the hotel for players and their families, so we did that. We had a whole bunch of relatives who came in for the festivities, plus my high school buddies came in too. So we had a good group.
After that, there was a room at the hotel with all this stuff, like gifts from sponsors of Major League Baseball and the All-Star Game. They set it up in stations, and the first station was Herschel, the bag company. They gave everybody a duffel bag. Then you made your way around the circle, hitting all these booths, and you just put all the stuff in your bag. It was like trick-or-treating. There were several stations that I skipped -- or tried to -- but Eireann would get in line and say, "We could give this to so-and-so, they would love it." She's never thinking about herself or us first. One of those things was a denim jacket. I already have several denim jackets (believe it or not), but sure -- I'll take another. Why not? I essentially knocked out my Christmas shopping in the middle of July.
Monday afternoon: Hi, my name is
When I got to the ballpark Monday afternoon and saw the names on the jerseys that were hanging in the lockers, I realized the company I was in. It was very surreal, and a little overwhelming. It made me realize how special this opportunity is. I had my regular locker (Bryce [Harper] and Max [Scherzer] got to keep theirs, too), but different neighbors. Eugenio Suarez from Cincinnati was on my left, and Brad Hand was on my right. Next to him was Felipe Vazquez. They're both [Hand and Vazquez] lefty relievers like me, so it was cool being able to talk to those guys.
But the best was Kenley Jansen. I'd never met him before, and as a guy that converted to pitching from a different position, he's like the patron saint of converted position players. He's had a hell of a run as the closer in L.A. He throws predominantly fastballs up in the zone, so I love to watch him pitch. I guess the Dodgers had politely put in a request to make him unavailable for the game because they wanted to let him rest during the break. So Monday and Tuesday, he was getting his work in, and I got to stand behind the catcher while he threw a bullpen session. That was cool for me, because I really look up to him. Well, everybody looks up to him -- literally. He's huge.
Once everyone's in their unis, you get hauled off to this media session with all these people from the various markets around the country. It's a lot of people that haven't talked to you before, so you end up answering the same question several times -- dozens of times, even. It's almost exclusively light-hearted questions, so it's pretty fun. It was a 45-minute session, but it went really quick. Every player has a table that has a sign with their name on it, but Bryce had three tables because there that was that much media around him at all times. I had a pretty steady flow stopping by my table. It wasn't like I was sitting there, twiddling my thumbs or talking to myself. I had to recount my Twitter history with Smash Mouth, which was pretty interesting. That's probably a question nobody else got.
After the media session, I didn't have to be outside on the field to take batting practice or anything, so I was able to get a bunch of rehab stuff done. I was a little bummed that I missed out on the whole BP thing and mixing it up with the guys, but I had to put my blinders on and get my work in.
I was done by like 6:30, so I had an hour-and-a-half before the Derby started. There's this big table in the middle of the locker room, and every guy has items that they put out there for all the guys on the team to sign -- baseballs, jerseys, stuff like that. It's a lot of signing, but you've got to do it because you have stuff on that table, too, and it's part of the experience. You hope that guys are going to roll through and sign your stuff. Before the Derby's a good time to knock that out, so that's what I did.
Monday night: Derby daze
Bryce was my pick to win the Home Run Derby. You could tell he was fired up. A lot of the other guys were just doing it to have fun and whatever happens, happens. But Bryce, he came to play. He came to win. You could tell right away from the introductions. He came out and got the crowd fired up. It was pretty cool.
When I was a kid, watching All-Star week on TV, the Home Run Derby was a highlight for me. So being able to be on the field for it was really cool. It's amazing to watch from that angle. To be that close. To hear the noise that these balls are making as they come off the bat. The last time that I was there, I took a lot of video, and I felt like I was watching the event through my phone. I took a few pictures this time, but for the most part, I was just watching.
You got a sense it was going to be a crazy night when [Rhys] Hoskins started it off and he was the 8-seed, and he put up a 17-spot in the first round. Me and Max were watching and wondering what we should do. When Bryce hit, we made sure that we were right there in the on-deck circle in case he needed a timeout. In the finals, when he called that last timeout, he thought he had more time than he did. We weren't sure if the clock was right. Max was like, "You gotta go, you gotta go right now."
To be honest, it was really fun to give him the trophy, to run out there with Max and present it. And it was cool to be able to hold the trophy for a little bit as we were walking out there. I gave Bryce a hug and congratulated him, and then got out of there because it was his moment. His moment to share with his dad. His moment to share with the fans. His moment to share with everyone there at Nationals Park. The stadium was so loud. I hadn't heard it that loud since the playoffs. It might have even been louder. So I was just trying to soak that in.
To see Bryce win it in that fashion, and to share that with his fans, it was almost like it reminded him of everything that he means to the city and this organization. I think it could be something that launches him into the second half. People talk a lot about how the Home Run Derby is bad for your swing, but what if mashing 45 dingers on that stage, in that atmosphere, is something that gets you locked in for the second half?
Tuesday afternoon: Walking the walk
We were hanging out in the Delta Club, waiting to do the red carpet. That was cool because you get to see guys, even from the American League side, who you don't get to see that much during the couple days. So everybody's in there, all dressed up with their families, waiting for their name to be called. There's a guy walking around with a megaphone: "All right, we're ready for Sean Doolittle, please come to the front."
I'm super awkward, especially in crowds of people like that, so I was completely out of my element. I found it to be very overwhelming and intimidating. People tell you, "Stand in this spot, and look here, now look over here, now over here. Go walk to the next spot and stand here. These people are going to ask you questions, and then these people are going to ask you questions. Now move to this spot." I thought you just walked and waved at people. But you actually have to be on your game. And I wasn't, at least not at first. I was really rattled. But we started to loosen up and we had some fun with it. By the end of the red carpet, my wife and I had it down.
Tuesday night: The 'Doooooo' heard round the world
I was super bummed that I wasn't going to be able to play in the game, but that reception -- I'll remember that for the rest of my life. I think it was the loudest "Doooooo" I've ever heard.
Normally, when they do it, I'm working. I don't get a chance to look around and listen and really take it in because I'm either running in for a save or trying to get the last out of a game. So that was the first time I could really listen and soak it in. It was a really emotional moment for me. I got goosebumps. I got really choked up. It's hard for me to put it into words. I've gotten such incredible support from the fans. They've supported me, and they've supported my wife. To be able to find her during that moment -- I spotted her in the stands and got to share that from afar -- it was just really special. We haven't been in D.C. that long, and they've embraced us from day one. It was an incredible moment. That was the highlight of the couple days for me. For both of us.
DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/DgbSjjXqQt— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 18, 2018
Tuesday night: The game
I don't get to watch too many games from the dugout. Normally, if that happens, I either messed up big time in the ninth, or we're tied. It was a different perspective.
Any time you get to watch Max, it's a treat, but he was on another level because he knew he was only going two innings. So he could really empty the tank. Watching him navigate [Mookie] Betts, [Jose] Altuve and [Mike] Trout right out of the gate -- goodness gracious. Altuve and Trout are Hall of Famers, and Mookie looks like he's well on his way. Three faces of our game right now. Seeing matchups like that that you don't get to see during the season was really cool.
The first five or six innings, pitching seemed to be dominating. Guys were sitting 97 [mph], 98, several guys touching 100. That's fun to watch. Maybe I'm biased because I'm a pitcher, but I think that's pretty cool that a guy can throw a ball 100 miles an hour. And then, balls just started flying out of the ballpark. There's a lot of talk about there's too many strikeouts, not enough guys trying to battle at-bats, they're just trying to hit home runs, and it's ruining the game and making it boring. Well, there were a bunch of guys out there throwing 100 miles an hour, punching tickets and there were balls flying out of the ballpark. Seemed pretty exciting. The fans certainly seemed into it. Seems to me like there's a lot in this game that we should celebrate. That game was a good example of that.
After the game, everybody's scrambling to get out as fast as they can. If you started the game, you might duck out before it's even over to catch a late flight out and make the most of the rest of your break. It's an abrupt end to a week that's full of pomp and circumstance. Then it's just over. It's kind of weird.
I met up with my family afterward. I stayed in my uniform because I wanted to take a bunch of pictures with them and just share the moment. We hung out in the tunnel for probably a half-hour. It was cool that I got to see them, but it was late and some of them had early flights, so that was it. We just went back to the hotel and ordered up some room service and went to bed. I didn't get back to my room until 2:00. It was a long day, but it was something I'll remember for the rest of my life.
Knowing I wasn't going to play in the game, that's a bummer, but it gave me a chance to soak everything else in that much more. At the end of the day, I'm a huge baseball fan. I love the game. So I was able to sit back and take it all in. I think it actually made the experience better.