The odds are good that Oakland Athletics first base prospect Sean Doolittle hasn’t had to spend much money lately on new batting gloves or sweatbands.
Like most ballplayers, Doolittle admits to having his share of superstitions and, again like most ballplayers, those often center around “lucky” apparel or equipment.
“As soon as things start to go downhill, I’ll switch it up,” explained Doolittle, whom the Athletics drafted out of the University of Virginia with a supplemental first-round pick in 2007. “Even my batting gloves and sweatbands are subject to change because obviously they’ve run out of luck.”
But since signing with Oakland in June 2007, those slumps have been few and far between.
In 2008, his first full season, the left-handed hitter combined between Advanced A Stockton and Double-A Midland to hit .286 with 22 homers and 91 RBIs before batting .293 in an Arizona Fall League stint.
It’s looking like the As’ decision for him to focus on offense over pitching was the right one.
A star pitcher and top hitter in high school, a large part of the reason Doolittle opted to attend Virginia was the school’s willingness to let him see time as a two-way player.
“By my third year there. with the draft in the near future, I decided that I didn’t want to make the decision — I wanted whomever drafted me to choose,” he said. “It was too difficult a decision to make on my own!”
He admits that, especially when he began his pro career, the little pitcher in his head would talk to him when he was at the plate.
“The further I distance myself from my past on the mound, the less and less it happens,” he said. “When it does though, I have to ask for time and reset my brain. It seems to work better when I don’t think as much! The less I guess or try and anticipate a certain pitch sequence and the more I simply react to what’s being thrown, the better chance I give myself to have a quality at bat.”
His recent big league spring training appearance saw him bat .357 in 18 games, leaving a good impression before being reassigned to Minor League camp.
By the way, is it just me, or has anyone ever seen Doolittle and Cleveland Indians first base prospect Jordan Brown in the same place at the same time? This picture of Doolittle, taken by Paul Gierhart, is on the top. The one below it is of Brown, taken by Michael Janes. I think they look like they could be brothers. Very good-looking brothers, of course.
And coincidentally, both happen to be terrific former journal keepers for MLB.com and, in fact, Doolittle is one of our Minor League bloggers for 2009 … you can read his blog here when he starts keeping it when the season gets underway!
MLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest?
Sean Doolittle: I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve had a lot of things in my career of which I’m very proud. My career at UVA, getting drafted by the A’s in ’07, representing my country on the baseball field for two summers during college. However, two accomplishments standout for me personally. In 2004, my high school won the state title and I racked up 23 K’s in our extra inning state championship game. And in the summer of 2006, I was a member of the National Team that earned a gold medal in the World University Games in Havana, Cuba.
MLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
SD: I think right now I’d be in school, finishing up my Psychology degree, figuring out exactly what I wanted to do. However, I’m fairly certain I’d stay in the game as a coach, probably on the college level.
MLB: Everyone has a “hidden talent.” What’s yours?
SD: Ok, I don’t know a foreign language. I don’t know any magic tricks. I’m a pretty simple guy, out of the what you see is what you see is what you get mold. I can read music and can dabble on the piano and I have a drumset at home and I can handle myself on that, although I’m no Stewart Copeland. I’m pretty good with words too…as long as they’re on paper. I’ve always done well with anything that had to do with putting thoughts and pictures into words, and wouldn’t mind making a living doing something related to that someday. Maybe that’s how I should have answered your previous question!
MLB: Complete this sentence: It would surprise people to know that I…
SD: …lived in California between the ages of 3-6 and spent my summers driving to Oakland where we had season tickets to Oakland A’s games. It was my first exposure to baseball as a little kid so it’s really cool how things have (almost) come full circle.
MLB: What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
SD: The summer after my freshman year in high school I got a job at my middle school with a buddy of mine working on the maintenance staff. We did everything – mopping floors, painting walls, replacing light bulbs, moving furniture. My parents made me get a job, but that was miserable. I’ve stuck to given lessons ever since!
MLB: What is your guiltiest TV pleasure?
SD: If “Friends” or “Seinfeld” is on TV, I’ll put the remote down, even if I’ve seen the epidodes already. But I’m cranky if I miss out on some Thursday nights on NBC. “The Office” and “30 Rock” are my two favorite shows.
MLB: What reality TV show would you kick butt on?
SD: Does “Guts” count? How about “Legends of the Hidden Temple”? I’m pretty sure I’d dominate the Aggro Crag, and I’d be one of the better Blue Barracudas to ever set foot in that temple – none of those temple guards would dare get in my way! As far as actual shows that are still on TV? Cash Cab, no question. I’d have him driving all over Manhattan while I answered all those random questions!
MLB: If you could trade places with one person for a day who would it be and why?
SD: Bear Grylls. I’d love to go out into the wilderness for a few days and survive off the land, especially because he goes to some really cool places. I don’t know how many days I would last or if I’ll ever be as awesome at life as he is but it would be really fun to give it a shot.
MLB: Who would play you in the movie of your life?
SD: Ok first of all, I don’t really think anyone would go see that movie. Maybe they would wait for it to come out on DVD. Or just rent it from a Red Box somewhere. Vince Vaughn is one of my favorite actors so I think I’d cast him and give him free reign to do some improv and talk all fast and make it interesting so people would actually watch it and have a laugh or two.
MLB: Which aspect of life in the minors do you find to be the biggest challenge and why?
SD: The travel, no doubt. Spend one night on the floor of a bus going from Midland, TX, to Corpus Christi, TX, and see how you feel! And then try to play a game later on that day!
MLB: What is the best minor league promotion or visiting act you’ve seen? And the worst?
SD: Jake the Diamond Dog, no question. As if it weren’t enough that I love dogs, he’s a Golden Retriever that can act as a bat boy or go after foul balls or even bring the umpires water between innings. He was in Kane County when I was playing in the Midwest League in 2007 for a few games and he put on quite a show. As far as the worst? I don’t really know. I’ve worn my fair share of ugly uniforms for some promotions so far in my career but they’ve been for pretty decent causes so I can’t really label them as bad promotions now can I?